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Kitchen gadgets, gear, and appliances to help you get things done.

Gadgets: Hamilton Beach Open Ease Jar Opener

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[Photograph: Hamilton Beach]

We've all been there. You reach in the refrigerator for a little snack. Maybe a jar of pickles or some salsa to go with the chips.

And the jar (grunt) ... Just. Won't. Open.

You grab the rubber jar gripper, whack the lid on the countertop, and soak it in water. You grunt and sweat and the simple snack has become a matter of honor.

Sure, you could have a different snack, but now you don't want that danged jar to win. Pretty soon you're in full-on Wile E. Coyote mode and you're thinking about ice picks and dynamite.

Sometimes the problem is the vacuum seal on the bottle, but sometimes it's that something dripped and now the lid is glued on.

Enter the Hamilton Beach Open Ease Jar Opener ($29.99). This opener runs on batteries and fits into a drawer. It sits on top of a jar and when you press the "open jar" button it grabs the lid with one mechanism, grabs the jar with another mechanism, and twists to open the jar. It slowly increases the grab strength until it can hang on hard enough to break the seal and open the jar.

Then when the jar is open, you press the "release lid" button and it lets go and continues to open fully for its next job. There's no "stop" button—just open and release, and the instructions suggest you let it open all the way before you attack the next jar.

So far, I've only run into two jars it had trouble with. One was a half-gallon canning jar. The problem was that the neck of the bottle was difficult for the opener to grab. Another jar lid (actually more of a bottle than a jar, if we want to be technical) was just barely too small for the opener to grab tightly. I also had a couple failures that I attribute to user error.

Since I got this opener, I've quit fighting with jars. If the jar doesn't twist easily on the first try, I grab the opener, set it on top of the jar, press the button and walk away while it slowly but surely twists the lid.

Have I ever had a jar I absolutely couldn't open before I got this device? No, not really. But this thing makes the job a lot less frustrating and it fits much better in a kitchen drawer than that husband-device that used to be my last resort.

About the author: Resident yeast whisperer and bread baking columnist Donna Currie also has a serious gadget habit. When her father-in-law heard about this column, he upgraded the nickname for her kitchen from "gadget world" to "gadget heaven." You can find her on her blog, Cookistry or follow her on Twitter at @dbcurrie.

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