This is an interesting topic to cover, because the answer is going to depend on what exactly you want to achieve!
I can think of two different scenarios where you’d want to microwave without a plate:
You don’t have a plate to put your food on, before it goes on the rotating platter:
In this situation, the food will still rotate in the microwave and be cooked evenly. That’s the most important thing.
As long as the food you’re working with doesn’t melt or run, there’s no real reason you can’t microwave it without using a plate.
That said, if it’s store-bought and designed to be cooked in its packaging, you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. No exceptions!
If we’re talking about raw food produce though, it can go right on the platter. Just keep in mind there’s a chance it will stick to the turntable and make a real mess. It might also be fiddly to get it off the surface altogether!
A lot of this comes down to the clean-up operation you’re prepared to put up with. You’re always going to find it easier to clean a plate, rather than a microwave turntable.
You can solve this problem somewhat by putting the item on a material like microwave-safe parchment paper. This stuff can tolerate a heat of up to 425F / 218C. As long as the food isn’t particularly fatty, you’re unlikely to come close to that kind of temperature.
If you really have no choice though, you can just place the food directly onto the rotating platter. Just be ready to apply some elbow-grease to that platter.
You don’t want to use a plate OR a rotating platter:
This is where things get interesting.
For the most part, there are two different types of microwave on the market.
First, you have the microwave we’re most familiar with. It has a rotating turntable, usually made of heat-tolerant tempered glass, which spins on an axis to complete 360 degree turns.
(Some even alternate between 180 degree clockwise and counter-clockwise movements, but these are less common.)
Alternatively, you can use something that’s known as a flatbed microwave. The microwaves are transmitted from a rotating antenna, found under the base of the appliance.
The microwaves bounce around the inside of the appliance, cooking the food evenly, albeit at a slightly different angle to the turntable approach.
You can certainly buy one of these for your home kitchen, but they tend to be more popular in commercial kitchens. This is for a few reasons:
- They have bigger interiors, and the lack of a turntable means you can take full advantage of that extra space.
- They offer more flexibility, as they can accommodate many different container shapes and sizes at the same time.
- They’re generally easier to clean, which is another reason why they’re so popular in commercial kitchens – time is always at a premium!
The two leading models at the time of publishing this article are:
- HEAVY DUTY COMMERCIAL GRADE MICROWAVE Ideal for full-service and fast-food restaurants, convenience...
- BOTTOM ENERGY FEED SYSTEM FOR FAST COOKING RESULTS 1000W power, and 0.8-cu. ft. capacity; Energy travels...
- NO-HASSLE GRAB & GO HANDLE Ensures fast, smooth, long-lasting performance; Also features see-through oven...
- SIMPLE TO OPERATE: The classic dial timer can be set anywhere from 10 seconds to 6 minutes and includes...
- SPACIOUS INTERIOR: The 1.0 cu. ft. capacity can accommodate a 13-1/2'' platter, prepackaged foods, single...
- AUTO-CANCEL TIMER: When the door is opened during cooking, the remaining time is cancelled; saving energy...
(Heads up! If you click on a product link and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. I never recommend a product I wouldn’t use in my own kitchen, and this helps keep the site running. Thank you.)
Although these are designed for commercial environments, there’s no reason you can’t add one to your home kitchen. You’ll get the same benefits as the pros!
Let’s wrap things up by answering some related questions.
Can You Use A Microwave Without The Glass Plate?
This obviously only applies to the classic turntable microwave. If you’re using a flatbed microwave, you don’t have this problem by definition.
When it comes to turntable microwaves, you can heat food in it without the platter, but there’s a big flipside.
If it’s not rotating continuously within the microwave, the food just won’t heat evenly.
You’ll need to regularly stop the microwave, stir the contents, change the position of the container, and so on.
In effect, you’ll need to manually recreate the rotating effect of the glass platter. At this point, you might as well be heating your food on the stove!
If you don’t keep combining the contents though, you’ll end up with cold spots in the food.
Why Are Cold Spots Such A Problem?
As well as making the meal unpleasant to eat, cold spots in your food can help create conditions for bacteria to develop.
That’s bad enough by itself, but the hot parts of your food are taking in all the microwave energy.
They’re going to be considerably hotter as a result, which will make the food unpleasant to eat and potentially burn your mouth too.
These two things combined means it’s really important to use your microwave the way it was intended.
If your turntable is broken, it’s going to take a lot of effort to stop and start the microwaving process to make sure hot and cold spots don’t develop.
If you need to replace your microwave plate, don’t DIY a solution! Instead, contact the manufacturer to see if they offer replacements. I think it’s worth spending a little money for a lot of peace of mind.
I’ll wrap things up here by summarizing the main points:
- If you want to microwave food without a plate, stick to items that won’t melt or make a mess.
- Consider using parchment paper as a barrier between the rotating platter and the food.
- To access more of the appliance’s volume, consider buying a flatbed microwave instead.
- However you’re approaching this problem, make sure you don’t create hot or cold spots in the food!
Mark’s a lifelong food fanatic and spent ten years working as an entertainment journalist. He now combines his love of food, drink and writing as the founder and editor of Viva Flavor. Read more