Is there any easy way of draining a can of tuna without special tools, or a strainer?

I'm talking about a normal (in the US) 5oz can of tuna. Not the huge ones at costco.
can of tuna

9 Answers 9


I discovered a great way to press out the water or oil from a can of tuna using only the can and a cup.

Start by opening the lid with an old style can opener. (Sadly a safety can opener will not work for this.) Cut the lid all the way around, and let it drop down.
can of tuna with lid cut free with a can opener next to it

Next get a plastic cup and use it to press the lid down. You will want to have the can over the sink at this point.
lid of the can being pressed down by a cup, draining the water out of the tuna

Now flip the whole can and cup press upside down so that it lets the water drain out. Doing this also makes it easier to squeeze the water out because I can just press the can down against the sink.

Using this method is actually faster then a strainer because you can go straight from the can, drained, to the dish.

  • 1
    @Stephie exactly. I do not want wet tuna in a sandwich, squeezing out the water is the only. Draining just does not do it. And no this is not for the Sherlock hat, but another. ;)
    – David
    Dec 17, 2017 at 17:48
  • 2
    I don't even use a cup, just press the lid down with fingers. Future readers should be aware that this method doesn't work with can openers that operate with a horizontal blade/that cut the entire lid including the hardened rim off the can. It only works with openers that cut around the inside of the rim, leaving the rim attached to the can and a cut can end that will fit inside the empty can
    – Caius Jard
    May 9, 2019 at 8:48
  • 1
    @CaiusJard quoted from my answer "Start by opening the lid with an old style can opener. (Sadly a safety can opener will not work for this.)"
    – David
    May 9, 2019 at 14:15
  • Always wondered why they're "safer" - still leave a pretty awesome sharp edge to ruin yourself with.. Seem to recall they don't make for quite so good an animal paw trap?
    – Caius Jard
    May 9, 2019 at 16:13
  • Just a random fact, in Europe they come with a latch, so you don't need any extra tools and you can use this is push and drain the tin, without getting a mess everywhere
    – CustomX
    May 28, 2019 at 13:57

Start opening the can and stop after a short bit. (1 to 5 cm, 1/2 to 2") Repeat on the other side of the can, ideally you have the shorter length on one side and the longer length on the other.

Hold the can so the top becomes the side with the bigger opening (or a random one) at the lowest point. Many cans will stay in this position when you put them down. If you want to use the liquid or keep a tidy work space, you can easily hold it over a container (or just a place to drain.)

A little shake or a bit of movement will encourage more liquid out, as will changes in tilt.

When drained to the point you want, place the can opener in one of the openings you have made before and continue from there, you can usually ignore the other opening as the can opener will just go on.

For those cans that open when you pull up a ring, lift the top for part of the way, between 1/6 and 1/3 of the circumference and press down on the middle of the opening if the contents can fall out already, hold one end of the opening down, allowing the other end to let air in. If it does not yet want to drain, open a bit further, to about 1/2 and be very careful about the contents falling out.

In extreme cases, it might be useful to make an opening at the top of the can and a second at the bottom, but in that case you fill find it hard to control the draining to where you want it.

(Added from my own comment, as other answerers seem to have missed it.)
You can of course do this first and then continue with the free the top completely and press down on the fish.
I for one do not like to turn my canned food into mush, although it does depend on the kind of food, with fish it sometimes is acceptable.

  • +1 because it needs no extra equipment except for perhaps a can opener. I find repeated pushing on the lid can speed up the process.
    – Stephie
    Dec 17, 2017 at 8:08

I've read all the answers above, this way is the simplest (so far), perhaps you wanna try it. Open the tuna completely, then take the lid & put it back on the tuna can to fit in (inside), hold it with your fingers of one hand both sides of can (thumbnail on one, the rest on the other side) so you can flip it (tuna won't fall), the oil/water will fall & the tuna will be drained.

  • But you have to hold it. (I assume you mean 'lid' instead of 'opening'.)
    – Willeke
    Dec 24, 2017 at 10:31
  • You don't need to hold it long. I do this; all the other answers seem like they would take unnecessarily long. One comment: after holding this upside down and losing much of the water, I then press on the lid on one side, which usually results in a bit more water being drained. (Perhaps repeat on the other side.) I usually do this indoors and might get some of the tuna-water dripping onto me, but that's fine since I'm near a sink and can just rinse my hand right away when I'm done draining the can.
    – TOOGAM
    Nov 19, 2019 at 22:43

I'm going to suggest a combination (and slightly altered version) of Willeke and David's ways.

Use a can opener to open the can half way, stand it up on the edge of your sink on the side of the can*, and let it drain into the sink for a minute or two. Finish cutting off the top and press the freed top into the can with your thumb(s) while tipping the can into the sink to remove the remaining juices.

Using this method, I've seen the tuna come out almost completely dry. I like juicy tuna, so I just let it drain, without squashing it.

  • Yes, a can of tuna will stand on it's side and not roll around. I also drain canned veggies, mushrooms, etc. by standing the can on it's side.

Edit: @Stephie, you asked, so I provide... BTW, I meant to say the side of the can, not edge. Maybe that's what was confusing you.

can of tuna, sideways on sink rim


I have found, even after trying some of these methods, that if you take the tuna out of the can and squeeze it in a ball as hard as you can with your hands, you'll get even more water out.


I bought six 5-ounce (142 grams) cans of off brand Ancla "chunk" light Tuna in water. It was mostly water with no chunks of any tuna. All my attempts of draining the water from the tuna failed. So put all of it in a pot and brought it to a boil under full heat. Next I through in some rice. Once it started boiling again I put on low heat and covered for 15 minutes. Problem solved.


The best way to drain water from a tuna can is by lightly pressing the top (so that you do not lose any tuna) of the can but in different areas of the can as you are holding it tilted so that the water can drain down into the sink.
In other words if you press lightly positioning your hands on the outer edge of the top in an east and west position across from each other the water will easily drain from the south.
I change it rotating the can so that my hands remain in the east and west position but switching to the north and south position of the can top to get an even amount of water out on all sides.
I lose no tuna and all water doing it this way.

  • I assume you first fully open the can, before you press the top. If so, it is not that different from several methods already posted.
    – Willeke
    Nov 22, 2020 at 13:12

Use a potatoe ricer. This squeezes all the water out. I do this when making fish cakes

  • What's a potato ricer and how do you use it?
    – Chenmunka
    Jul 22, 2023 at 10:32
  • @Chenmunka see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato_ricer. Standard method of using one is to place food items in the cylinder and pressing the plunger part down via the handles.
    – Stephie
    Jul 23, 2023 at 5:32

I suggest you the following method:

  • Open the can using a can opener.
  • Place a plastic plate on it top so that it covers the entire opening of the can. If possible, try to attach the plastic plate onto can by using rubber bands.
  • Now, invert the entire setup on the top of a plastic container. The system then will start to drain out the liquid into the container.
  • Expertise will help you to balance this system on the container. Let it remain for an entire night, next morning, you get drained our tuna inside the can.

You can also use a fine mesh colander to drain the tuna.Shred it by rubbing it in your hands until all the chunks are gone.

Another kitchen hack is to use metal lemon squeezer, put the contents of the can in the inside part of the squeezer, press the top part of the handle down and squeeze until it's as dry as you want it to be. If you are very much keen on the smell that it can cause on lemon squeezer, it would go on your next lemon squeeze. Also, soon after use, wash it in the dishwasher.

Since I am not a user of this, I am not sure whether keeping this system entire night would lead to decay of food or any inorganic growth, so user discretion is expected

  • 1
    Too much fuss and too many extra tools to clean, IMHO.
    – Stephie
    Dec 19, 2017 at 6:24
  • @Stephie If you are confident to use yourself to drain out the can, then I dont resort to tools. Dec 19, 2017 at 6:28

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