Open up

I hate to be one of those guys who bitches about how the world’s on it’s way down because all our crap is made in China these days. It’s a trite story line, and I like being able to afford stuff I couldn’t dream of otherwise if it weren’t being put together by skilled sweatshop labor. $200 for my smartphone? $150 for my DeWalt drill set?  There was a great episode of King of the Hill where Hank Hill was throwing batteries at the Mega Mart that put him out of a job. The only problem was that his arm got tired because he got so many damn batteries for $10.

On the other hand, there is a lot to be said for quality gear. And when it came to buying a can opener, I can actually afford to splash out and make sure I got quality. But is it worth it.

I’ve had my old Swing-A-Way can opener for going on 20 years. I bought it at a gas station because I needed something to get my bill over $10 so I could use a credit card and after opening 1 can, I threw out whatever piece of shit I’d been using. It was a nice piece of work; smooth cranking, can opening goodness.

After 20 years, though, it was showing some wear. For about a year now, it had a tendency to bend the rim of the can enough to skip about 1/4″ of cutting half-way around the can. I managed to not cut my thumb off trying to bend can lids in, but I had to reach for my Swiss Army knife more than once to finish opening.

So I finally got around to just buying a new one. I actually looked around the local store, but couldn’t find the same one that I wanted, so I hit Amazon. Sure enough, they had the same  Swing-A-Way that I was looking for. Less than $8. Prime shipping. I don’t even know why I read the reviews, but there was everyone griping that they were now made-in-China crap. I wondered what else was out there, so I searched a bit.

Sure enough, the China bashing provided a market opening. 
The John Steuby Company puts it right up there in front and calls it the “Made in USA Can Opener.” On the body, they’ve stamped it EZ-DUZ-IT. According to some legend in the Amazon reviews, they used to make parts for the original Swing-A-Way and somehow licensed the original design.

I bought both. I wanted to know whether American made was worth the extra 30%.

Right out of the package, the Steuby ones had nicer handles than the Swing-A-Way. It felt solid, for sure. But the brand new Chinese one still managed to look a hell of a lot like my old Swing-A-Way made in the USA 20 years ago.

Time to open some cans. I decided to make chilli since it takes a lot of cans of stuff. I even threw in a few extras. I alternated can openers as I cranked them open. I thought about doing it blindfolded, but I could tell them apart by the handles.

And any idiot could tell them apart by the way they opened cans. The shiny new Swing varied in how much torque it took throughout each crank rotation, and I could see the can rim flexing a bit as it went round. Sure, it got them all open without a hitch, but the packaging was still on the counter and I could already sense the doom that took down its predecessor. If this thing lasts 20 years of regular use, I’ll fly to China and cook chili for everyone in the sweatshop that made it.

The Steuby, on the other hand, brought me right back to the first can with my original Swing-A-Way. It takes some force to turn, but it’s so smooth that it feels like if you gave it a huge spin it would just whip the can lid off on its own. It cuts the lids off cans like it’s been sitting in the drawer wondering when the hell someone was going to get their act together and put it to work.

In short, the Made in the USA can opener is worth every freakin’ penny. If I’d known what I was getting up front, I’d cheerfully pay $20 for it. I can’t often afford to buy the best, so it’s nice to splash out on something really awesome.

Speaking of which, the chili was pretty damn good, too.

Beef, Bean, and Bacon Chili

  • 6 slices bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs gronud beef
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbls chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 can each Black, Pinto, Kidney, Garbanzo beans, opened with your new Ez-Duz-It* can opener and  drained.
  • 1 beer (plus more for the cook)
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce


cook the bacon in a dutch oven  or big pot until it starts to brown, then lift out and set aside. Brown the ground beef in the pot, then set it aside on a paper towel. Add the onion to the pot and saute until soft. Add garlic for 1 minute.

Add the beef and bacon back to the pot along with all the spices. Cook for a minute or 2, then add the beer, tomatoes, tomato sauce, Worcestershire and bring to a boil. Simmer, partly covered for 30 minutes.

Add the beans and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Serve with sour cream, cheese, cornbread, beer, etc.

This isn’t very spicy because my kids will eat it. I usually use a bunch of Tobasco sauce when I eat it. Probably would be better to add a few jalapeños with the onion.


*Despite how much I’m raving about the product, I didn’t get anything from the Steuby company or anyone else for writing this. I mean, unless you count the ration of shit I got from my wife for buying two can openers.

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