A microwave, this very popular kitchen appliance is equipped with a turntable that spins as food is being cooked on a preset timer. However, due to technical faults or a breakdown, the turntable can sometimes fail to rotate during food preparation.
Thus, as expected, many owners of a microwave often question whether a non-spinning microwave is harmful to the food’s quality, and therefore their health.
So let’s quickly look into this question: Does it matter if a microwave doesn’t spin?
It is possible to cook or heat food in a microwave that doesn’t spin or doesn’t have a turntable. But a rotating turntable helps spread the heat more evenly so that the food is heated sufficiently, which can ensure to kill all microorganisms while preserving all the valuable nutrients. And this is what matters most!
Can You Cook if a Microwave Is Not Spinning or Doesn’t Have a Turntable?
It is often assumed that you cannot cook in such an appliance, but it’s not entirely true. The primary function of the turntable is to simply assure that your meal is evenly cooked from every possible angle. The turntable can also rotate in either direction to heat food even more evenly.
The microwaves are produced via a magnetron which is a vacuum tube that is a part of the oven. The turntable spins to be able to distribute the waves from the magnetron more equally.
As a result of reflection from within the metallic interior of the oven, the waves can pass through any common material, including glass, plastic, and paper, not to mention different food products. Regardless, the waves emanating from all sections of the food container are designed to heat the water molecules within the particular food product.
Microwaves include turntables due to the fact that the waves form so-called standing waves, which are defined as static columns of energy encased within this appliance.
This can be easily observed when you remove the turntable and replace it with a plate of cheese. The melted cheese will interleave with the strips of cheese that didn’t melt. That’s why rotating is beneficial in order to offer evenly heated food.
As already said, the main purpose of having a turntable in the microwave is to cook or warm up any food item evenly while it’s rotating. If some areas of the food get too hot, they will lose their nutritional value. Saying that, a microwave will not affect the food’s nutrition unless the food gets too hot. And having a spinning turntable prevents this from happening.
So unless a food item is being cooked in the microwave for much longer than what is recommended on the food label, or the liquid is boiling over, or some parts of the food are drying out or getting burnt, it is very unlikely that the microwave is going to destroy the food’s nutrition.
Is a Turntable Really Necessary to Have in a Microwave?
As old models of microwave ovens from the past era did not possess this feature, a turntable is by no means required for the cooking of meals.
Turntables are simply there to heat every single part of the food as the waves tend to bounce to all key points inside of the container. Most of the time, the food in these key areas will receive the heat first and the majority of the heat, while food in other areas will receive the heat a bit later and at a slower pace.
That’s why, when you have a faulty turntable, you will get certain parts of your food that are a bit cold or not warm enough to enjoy, versus other food parts. In such a case, it’s recommended to frequently pause the microwave’s operation and turn or stir the food manually so it cooks more evenly, and this way cold spots can be prevented.
Yet, even without your manual rotating of the food, the heat will inevitably penetrate throughout all parts of the meal, and it will also be suitable to consume.
Consequently, a turntable is not always necessary to have in a microwave. However, depending on the microwave model, some manufacturers advise not to use the appliance without the turntable.
On the other hand, some models also include a button on the touchpad, which purpose is to switch the turntable’s rotation on and off, as per your requirements. Thus, it is important to always refer to the manufacturer’s manual in order to use the microwave properly and avoid any problems.
As a substitution to a turntable, some microwave ovens these days are equipped with a microwave stirrer that will magnetically stir food inside the appliance. Thus, it will spread the heat evenly throughout the container with food.
This stirrer is typically located at the microwave’s top behind the plastic cover, and it resembles a small fan. Different areas are reached as it rotates, providing a very precise heat distribution and reducing the necessity to turn and stop the food cooking cycle.
Additionally, many units that do not include a turntable are often designed with a rotating reflector that is located just below the magnetron. It is supposed to distribute microwaves in a more even fashion.
Will a Microwave Get Damaged without a Turntable?
No, your microwave will not get damaged if it doesn’t have a turntable inside. You can always stop or remove the turntable in case there is not enough space for large dishes to rotate; whether this is by accident or on purpose. In the worst-case scenario, this glass tray will simply strain and hold in place, and no damage will be done to the food either.
Have Microwaves Always Included Turntables?
Not at all, and they were still very safe to use from the beginning. It was only around the year 1965 when the first microwave to introduce a turntable was created by the Sharp Corporation.
Over the years, a large number of kitchen appliance manufacturers attempted to remove the microwave’s turntable feature in order to save on production costs. Yet, because their sales declined, the feature was reintroduced in recent years.
Basic Safety Tips when Using a Microwave
Yes, I know, they’re straightforward. But I think they are worth mentioning here. So, always follow the instructions provided by the microwave manufacturer for proper use.
Detailed tips in the manual provide the necessary safety precautions and operating procedures, which most of them are common sense. For example, you should not heat up any liquids for longer than what is recommended on the food label. Also, use only cookware that is suitable or specially designed for microwave use.
It is very important not to use closed or partially closed containers to cook your food in the microwave oven. Doing so will create a serious explosion hazard causing a high risk of personal injury. That also applies to partially closed food containers with loose-fitting lids as they may also explode.
Turntables, whether they’re functioning well or not, are not to blame for improperly cooked food. In general, you should not be using aluminum foil or metal pots and cutlery due to the fact that the waves will reflect off of them, causing damage to the appliance and waste of the food.
Certain plastic containers can melt as well, but they should be labeled microwave-safe in order to use them safely. Therefore, the only materials that are accepted to use inside a microwave are ceramic cookware, glass, and microwave-safe plastic.
Unlike the turntables, leakage is a far greater cause of concern as excess radiation will leak from the appliance if any seals, hinges, or latches are broken. Always check to ensure that you do not use the appliance if the door fails to close properly. It is quite common that some microwaves will operate and stay on when the door is not securely closed or is partially open.
Safety interlocks, however, are designed to stop the magnetron from generating microwaves in most cases. But due to the fact that each model is completely different, consumers can never be fully certain whether radiation is not being emitted in such circumstances.
As you have just read, a rotating turntable is not required to be able to safely cook a nutritious meal, reheat your leftovers, or warm up a glass of milk. And hopefully now you don’t need to ask anymore whether it matters if your microwave doesn’t spin!