Why do microwaves spin to cook the food we put inside them?
The simple answer is that they do so to ensure that the microwaves bouncing around inside the appliance are applied to all areas of the food evenly.
This helps prevent cold spots from occurring, and reduces the amount of stopping, stirring and restarting you’d otherwise have to do!
This is particularly important when it comes to awkwardly-shaped items you need to heat in the microwave. If they’re not symmetrical – a long and thin shape, say – then different sections of the food will cook faster than others.
By rotating the contents, your microwave does a little extra work to minimize this problem. The results can never be perfect, but things would be a lot worse if your microwave didn’t spin at all.
Do Microwaves NEED To Rotate?
If your microwave has a turntable platter, then it really does need to rotate to do its job properly.
The science is a little complicated, but as that microwave energy bounces around inside the appliance, it doesn’t always do so evenly.
Technically you could use a microwave that’s stopped rotating, but you’ll have to stop, stir the contents, and restart the process much more often.
Otherwise you’ll end up with very cold spots surrounded by extremely hot spots. Not fun – or safe – to eat
How Does A Microwave Turntable Work?
Microwave turntables work thanks to a simple motor that drives and rotates the – often glass – platter around with it.
By doing this, it evens out the amount of energy directed at the food overall, resulting in a much more even heating process.
Why Do Some Microwaves Not Spin?
Some microwaves have a so-called flatbed design. The energy is generated at the base of the microwave, and it’s then distributed evenly around the cooking interior.
As for turntable microwaves that no longer spin, the most common cause is an obstruction in the track that the turntable platter sits on.
If you have a roller guide for the platter, it might be either broken or just very dirty. If it’s the latter, give it a really good clean and see if that fixes the problem.
Can I Use A Microwave Without A Turntable?
You can use a microwave without the turntable, but you’ll need to stop and start the appliance a lot more.
The job of that turntable is to expose the food as evenly as possible to the waves bouncing around inside your microwave.
If you don’t make the effort to turn and stir the food inside, you’ll end up with very unevenly heated microwaved food.
Are There Microwaves That Don’t Spin?
Yes, you can buy so-called flatbed microwaves which have no rotating element at all.
These are more commonly used in commercial kitchens, so they can be quite expensive to buy for home use.
They also tend to be a little uglier in design – professional kitchens are more interested in performance than looks!
What’s The Difference Between A Flatbed Microwave And A Turntable Microwave?
In a flatbed microwave, the microwaves are released from a rotating antenna. This is found in the underside of the microwave.
Like a rotating microwave, this energy still bounces around the interior cooking space, but at a different angle.
In fact, they tend to perform better than traditional microwaves. The food they produce is much more evenly heated. That’s obviously essential in a professional kitchen!
I hope this guide has answered your questions! To summarize:
- Microwaves rotate to heat the food as evenly as possible, and prevent cold spots developing.
- You can technically use a turntable microwave without the platter, but you’ll need to stir more frequently.
- Flatbed microwaves don’t rotate at all, but are more commonly found in professional kitchens.
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