Four Ways to Open a Jar That's Stuck

These methods can help you loosen up the lid in no time.

unscrewing stuck pickle jar
Photo: CentralITAlliance / Getty Images

When you're in the middle of cooking and it's time to reach for anything from pickles to pepper jelly to preserved lemons to complete a dish, the most annoying thing can happen: You can't open the jar because the lid is stuck. No amount of twisting and turning will get it loose. While you can buy a jar opener to help in these situations, we're not fans of single-use gadgets in the kitchen, especially when there are ways to open a stuck jar that's with items you already have at home. Here, find our favorite expert-approved ways to get the lid off that stubborn jar.

Twist the Lid with a Silicone Cloth

One helpful way to loosen a tight, or simply stuck, lid on a jar is to grab something flexible made of silicone. That's what Ronna Welsh, a cooking teacher and the founder of Purple Kale Kitchenworks, uses as her go-to tactic. Make sure that it can drape over the entire jar lid (think a dish drying mat, oven mitt, or trivet). "The silicone's grip supercharges my hand strength," she says.

Run the Jar Under Hot Water

If you are still struggling to get the jar open, Jason Schreiber, a New York City-based food stylist, jokes that he uses this old-fashioned method, which also includes using the handy silicone cloth: "Scream in frustration, run it under hot water, and then remember the scrap of a thin rubber non-skid mat I keep buried in a drawer for just this occasion." Sarah Carey, our editorial director of food and entertaining, says running the jar lid under hot water and wiping it dry can help ensure nothing sticky is holding on to it. Following this step, using a utensil can open it all the way, just be careful, since this can be hazardous. "Slide the edge of a spoon under the cap edge and apply pressure against the jar until you hear a pop (that is the seal releasing) this method is what I use (our old kitchen manager taught it to me), but it might be considered dangerous due to the potential for glass breakage from the pressure of the spoon," says Carey.

Hit the Lid Against a Countertop

Third time could be the charm! "I turn the jar upside down and slam it, lid-first, onto the counter," Welsh says, adding that this requires conviction. "The impact will usually break the jar's vacuum seal." This is one of our food kitchen team's top tricks for opening a jar that's stuck. Our deputy food editor, Greg Lofts, notes that this step works best with jars of sauce, specifically marinara varieties. "I find banging on the bottom of the jar with your flattened palm is often enough force to create that pop sound, making the lid easy to twist and release," he says.

Use a Can Opener

Other tools that you use for everyday kitchen needs could come in handy, too. "I'll grab a can opener and use the oft-neglected key (the hook near the handle under the round blades) to gently pry up the lid several times around," Welsh says. "The jar will be easy to open after that."

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