Why Do Microwaves Spin/Rotate? In-depth Explanation

Microwave ovens aren’t just electronic boxes that heat food. So, you might wonder why they would need to spin the food.  Well,  it’s a valid query, I thought so too. So, Let’s find out everything about how and why do microwaves spin.

Microwave ovens heat food with electromagnetic radiation. The foods need that radiation evenly distributed in all parts to be heated perfectly. That’s why microwave ovens spin the food.

Sometimes you’ll see the turntable inside the microwave rotating in different directions. And a lot of other things happen inside a microwave.

Why Do Microwaves Spin? (In-depth Explanation)

Let’s first break down why microwaves rotate the food in detail. It’s all about heating food evenly. Microwaves emit electromagnetic waves. These waves penetrate the food and excite the water molecules, producing heat.

However, the design of a microwave leads to uneven distribution of these waves. Want to know the specifics?

Microwaves typically have “hot spots”. These are areas where the waves concentrate. These hot spots would overcook certain areas of your food, but others would remain cold if the food remained stationary (with no rotation).

To combat this, manufacturers introduced the rotation feature. Food rotates around the central point. This motion allows all parts of the food to pass through the hot spots. The result? Your food cooks more evenly.

The rotation speed isn’t random, either. It’s calculated for optimal cooking. Most microwaves rotate at speeds between 2.5 and 5 RPM (Rotations Per Minute).

Why this particular range? It’s because this speed optimally balances cooking time and even heating.

Why Do Some Microwaves Not Spin

Do All Microwaves Spin?

Not all microwaves spin. The old, retro microwaves from the 1970s did not include a turntable, which was not invented until the 1980s. However, most modern microwaves come with a turntable.

Microwaves spin to ensure that food is evenly heated. The rotating gear turns the turntable, which aids the uniform distribution of microwave radiation throughout the meal. It ensures that every dish is correctly cooked, with no cold or hot patches.

However, some people prefer microwaves that do not spin because they are easier to clean. Microwaves that do not spin take a simple wipe, while microwaves with a turntable may require more effort to clean.

See More: Green Beans Sparking In The Microwave [5 Easy Solutions!]

Why Do Microwaves Spin in Different Directions?

Microwaves spin in various directions as a standard feature. A microwave’s rotation can go either clockwise or counterclockwise. This function is usually just a result of the motor’s design.

Some models even alternate between directions with each use. It’s a feature that’s not about cooking at all! It’s about reducing the wear and tear on the motor. This way, the turntable doesn’t always exert pressure on the same side of the motor.

You might think the direction of rotation affects your food. But that’s not the case at all. Remember, the key role of rotation is even exposure to the “hot spots”. Whether your pizza spins to the right or the left, it’ll still come out perfectly heated.

In essence, it’s amazing how even the directions of the spins have a reason to it. The microwave is a common kitchen appliance, yet so much thought has gone into its design!

Why Do Microwaves Have a Turntable?

In simple terms, the turntable ensures your food heats evenly. It rotates the food so the microwave radiation gets applied to all parts of the food. So, the food heats up perfectly evenly.

Microwaves tend to heat food unevenly due to their long wavelength of approximately 12.2 cm. By rotating the food, the turntable ensures every part gets equal exposure to these waves.

In contrast, if you had a static plate, it would leave your food hot in one place, cold in another. But with a rotating turntable, the microwave radiation distributes evenly. The result? A tasty, uniformly heated meal.

Now, the turntable also offers an additional benefit. It prevents food from sticking to the microwave base. Consider a bowl of oatmeal. Without a turntable, the oatmeal can scorch and stick to the bottom. This can be a cleaning nightmare.

With a rotating plate, this issue is almost non-existent. So, you get easy heating and easy cleaning facilities.

Why Do Some Microwaves Not Spin?

While most microwaves come with a turntable, some models do not have this feature.

There are several reasons why some microwaves do not spin:

  • Design Choice: Some manufacturers choose not to include a turntable in their designs. Instead, they rely on other methods, such as manually stirring the food or using a different heating element.
  • Cost: The turntable mechanism adds to the cost of a microwave, so some budget models may not have this feature to keep the price low.
  • Size: Some compact microwaves may not have enough space to accommodate a turntable.
  • Specialty Models: Certain types of microwaves, such as those designed for commercial use or built-in models, may not have a turntable due to their specific use case.

While a turntable can help to ensure even cooking and prevent hot spots, it is not always necessary.

Read More: Microwave Making Noise: Find Reasons & Solutions

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

How do microwaves actually work?

Microwaves work by using “microwave” electromagnetic radiation to heat food. Food, water, fat, and sugar molecules absorb microwaves. It causes them to vibrate and generate heat. Cooking occurs as a result of the heat produced by the vibrating molecules.

Do Microwaves Need to Rotate?

Yes, most microwave ovens must rotate in order to function properly. The science is a little complicated here. As the microwave energy bounces around inside the microwave oven, it creates what is known as “standing waves”.

These waves can create hot and cold spots in the food, which can lead to uneven cooking. The rotation of the turntable helps to distribute the microwaves evenly.

Are there any microwaves that don’t have a turntable?

Yes, there are microwaves that don’t have a turntable. They are called flatbed microwaves. Flatbed microwaves can heat up and cook food effectively without needing a turntable.

They have a rotating motor and movable stirring blades. To evenly distribute waves and heat food, the motor drives the stirring blades. So, they don’t need to have a turntable.

Can I use a microwave without a turntable if it’s damaged?

Yes, you can. But you’ll have certain problems to deal with. The main issue is that the food won’t be rotating. So you’ll end up with more hot and cold spots.

However, you can still use a microwave without a functioning turntable. To distribute heat evenly, just manually rotate the food in quarter-minute increments during microwaving.

What happens if the turntable in a microwave stops spinning in the middle of heating/cooking?

If the turntable in a microwave stops spinning in the middle of cooking, several things can happen:

  • Uneven cooking
  • Bumpy stop-start spin
  • Glass tray drive coupling damage
  • Jerky motions


In summary, microwaves have to spin to heat food evenly and prevent cold spots. That’s why do microwaves spin while cooking or heating any food.

The rotation of the turntable helps to distribute the microwaves evenly, which reduces the formation of hot and cold spots.

If your microwave has a turntable platter, it actually needs to rotate in order to function properly.


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