Why Does the Microwave Spin? Turntables Explained!

If you’ve ever popped something in your microwave to cook, you’ve likely watched it rotate around while doing so. But, why does the microwave spin?

Well, the short answer is that your microwave spins to heat more evenly. This delivers less of those pesky cold spots in your Hot Pockets!

Read on to learn about why your microwave spins, the times that it’s not supposed to, and how to stop it if need be.

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Why Does My Microwave Spin?

Your microwave spins, simply, to help your food to heat more evenly. The turntable rotates the food around so that all sides are exposed to the microwaves, which alleviates more of the cold pockets.

Before the turntable existed, you’d have to pause your microwave and rotate your plate manually throughout the cooking cycle to accomplish this. Thus, it’s really a modern feature of convenience.

Of course, spinning is only one part of the equation. It’s important to cover your food in the microwave to help with even heating as well.

Why Does a Microwave Spin Both Ways?

A microwave spins both ways to reduce stress on the motor that powers the turntable. It takes extra energy at the start of the cooking cycle to engage the turntable.

When the cycle completes, the motor is basically engaged with one side of the turning portion (called the hub). To start it in the same direction would take extra power to “push” it forward. 

Should it reverse direction, however, it can get a “running start” through the gap and engage the hub with more force once it connects on the reverse side. This reduces the overall amount of energy spent, and thus reduces strain on the motor which prolongs its lifespan.

The way that your microwave spins in no way affects how your food cooks, so you don’t need to worry if it’s suddenly done an about-face on you!

Why Does the Microwave Spin When I Open the Door?

Your microwave should not spin when you open the door. If this is occurring, it generally means something is wrong with the microwave. The most common reasons a turntable keeps spinning when you open the microwave door are:

  • A faulty switch or sensor on the door of the microwave, causing the appliance to not detect that the door is opened
  • Moisture or something else causing a short in the turntable motor
  • Damage of some kind to the rotator, which is the arm that propels the wheels of the turntable around

If any of these issues are occurring, you may be able to fix them yourself if you’re very handy. However, if you’re wary of working on electrical appliances, then it’s best to call a repairman or to replace the unit entirely depending on the issue.

Check out our recommendations for the best microwaves under $100 for a budget-friendly replacement option!

Does the Microwave Need to Spin?

The microwave doesn’t need to spin to heat your food. However, as I mentioned before it helps to heat it more evenly.

If that part of your microwave is no longer functional, or you have a budget unit without a turntable, you can still heat your food just fine.

Remember to pause the cooking cycle every 30 seconds or so, and rotate the plate 90 degrees manually. Then, continue on with the cooking cycle. Repeat this process until your food is fully heated.

This is even more important when you’re thawing something, such as defrosting fish in the microwave. If you don’t rotate it adequately, you’ll start to cook the edges before the middle gets thawed out!

It might take a little more effort and attention, but the microwave doesn’t need to spin to cook, reheat, or defrost your foods!

How Do I Stop My Microwave From Spinning?

If you want to stop your microwave from spinning for any reason, the simplest solution should be on your microwave control panel. Most microwaves come with a turntable on/off button, or an option located within a settings menu to disable it.

Pressing this option should deactivate the turntable, and you can follow the process in reverse to reactivate it if needed. Check your manual if need be, as sometimes the directions aren’t obvious, similar to how to silence a microwave without a sound button.

If your microwave doesn’t have an option to disable the turntable from spinning, check if you can remove the wheels.

The turntable sits on top of a set of wheels that prevent it from tilting in the microwave. If the wheels connect directly to the hub in the center of the unit, you may be able to remove them to stop the spinning.

However, this isn’t true in all microwaves, as in many cases the turntable sits directly on the hub and would turn regardless. Your only other option would be to insert a microwave-safe rack or an inverted bowl that covers the turntable, and set your food on top of it.

In Conclusion

If you’ve ever wondered why the microwave spins, now you know!  It’s to help your food heat or defrost more evenly. That handy turntable is there to reduce those annoying cold pockets in your reheated lasagna!

Reheat a baked potato in the microwave and then top it up, without having to cut your potato up into tiny pieces to get it warmed.

For those times when you don’t need it to spin, you should be able to disable it and go about your business.

Katie Vine