This has been in my mind for a while... Well, actually everytime I heat any food with a greater amount of liquid in it:

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    $\begingroup$ Total guess, might/would be more efficient, but costly to implement, consumer wouldn't pay. $\endgroup$
    – user81619
    Jun 6, 2015 at 15:41

1 Answer 1


I think this question is more about the engineering (and economics) of manufacturing microwave ovens.

The standing wave pattern can create hot and cool spots in larger food items that are not moving inside the oven. The rotating plate is sufficient to move the food around so that most of the food is not stuck in a node that creates large temperature differences. Food directly along the rotation axis moves very little, but it's only a small fraction. In addition, this region is more likely to be on the interior where the direct heating effects are reduced and temperatures may have more of a chance to equalize after heating.

Moving the entire assembly in one direction would accomplish almost the same (admittedly it would eliminate the static axis) , but would require a more complex mechanism. Also any translation would reduce the usable volume inside the oven. A plate that shoved a reheating chicken onto one side of the oven might not be appreciated.

So it becomes a trade-off between more expensive ovens and the chance that small portions of the food on the rotation axis might not be as uniform as other areas. It seems that most users perceive the microwave oven as a non-precision device and are not willing to pay significantly more for small improvements in cooking ability.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for the explanation and the reheated chicken. It's actually a similar example that I was thinking of, would you eat uncooked/cold meat because the area in the rotation axis was not heated? Several times I pick up the dish, mix everything and put it back again... And for not getting stuck to the walls, the simplest mechanism I am imagining would use springs so we could control the height/length of the container. You could adjust them manually in a cheap oven :) $\endgroup$
    – Armfoot
    Jun 6, 2015 at 16:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Armfoot: See if you can patent that idea. It might appeal to the high-end user. $\endgroup$
    – Ernie
    Jun 6, 2015 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Armfoot I don't know anything about the workings of microwave ovens, but would moving the microwave-generating element be less complex than moving the food around? $\endgroup$
    – Zev Spitz
    Jun 6, 2015 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ I was thinking... why not use a Reuleaux triangle, or in the case of a rectangular case, something like you see in a wankel engine? upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/22/… $\endgroup$ Jun 6, 2015 at 20:02
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    $\begingroup$ @ZevSpitz: Significantly more complex, for two reasons: the source must be connected by a microwave pipe which doesn't leak waves (they're rather dangerous). This is problematic with a flexible joint. Secondly, the microwave source operates at a high voltage, which requires wires with decent isolation (not really flexible). It would be far easier to alter the standing wave pattern by moving passive reflectors inside the oven. $\endgroup$
    – MSalters
    Jun 7, 2015 at 1:32

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