How to CookKitchen HacksTips & Techniques

How to Open the Stuck Jar Lid That's Actively Taunting You

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A few weeks back, I got into a full-fledged stand-off with a jar of coconut oil. I'd like to go on the record as saying that yes, reader, I emerged victorious. (Please send any congratulatory emails to [email protected])

I don't know why I wanted to use the coconut oil (I had plenty of alternatives), but I do know that as soon as I realized the lid was stuck on the jar as if it had been superglued (...by an evil roommate, perhaps?), that was irrelevant: All I could think about was how satisfying it would be to twist that lid off. (Those of you who can't rest until your stainless steel pans are free of chalky residue may understand me.)

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See that bully on the left?
See that bully on the left? Photo by James Ransom

Anyway, after mustering all of my forearm strength and straining many tendons in my neck trying to remove the lid (after all, The Art of Manliness names "brute force" as the first technique for opening a stubborn lid), I took to the internet, consulting America's Test Kitchen, Mother Nature Network, and the sometimes-dubious-but-sometimes-reliable WikiHow.

The next time you're in a fight with a stuck jar, follow this plan:

  1. First, run the jar-lid nexus under hot water, and try twisting again. If you're lucky, this will solve the problem.
  2. If you're still having trouble, do something to maximize your grippy power (a.k.a. traction): Cover the lid with a dish towel or a sheet of plastic wrap before twisting; put on a plastic glove; or secure a strong, fat rubber band around the lid's rim to give your fingers something to cling onto.
  3. Next, try banging the jar's lid on the side of the counter or, more safely, with a heavy utensil, in four spots (like 12, 3, 6, and 9). Some hypothesize that this will dislodge any food obstructions; others say that it will create air pockets that will make it easier to break the vacuum seal. (But in the case of my coconut oil, or a sticky jar of honey, it wasn't a vacuum seal I was fighting against, but rather, gluey congealed oil.)
  4. If none of this is working—and steam is, at this point, spewing from your cartoon ears—take more extreme action: Turn the jar upside down, submerge it in a bowl of hot water for a minute or two, and then use a boosted-traction method to twist it open. I had to refresh the water several times (to maintain its temperature) before the jar budged.
  5. Just shatter the jar on your floor in a fit of frustration and pick out all the glass. (Just kidding! Never do that.)
An open jar of peanut butter, full of possibility!
An open jar of peanut butter, full of possibility! Photo by James Ransom

And, to make sure you never find yourself in this frustrating situation again, take preventative measures, as suggested by America's Test Kitchen: Cover the jar with plastic wrap before screwing the lid back on.

That is the current state of my jar of coconut oil (since you must be wondering). After opening it up and wrapping it neatly, I'm ashamed to admit that I have not used it. Once. But it is open—so I can! And that opportunity is all I need.

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Any good tips for opening stubborn jars? Tell us in the comments below.