I'm not a chemist by anymeans, have experience in a bio lab, or have a great deal of experience in dealing with the sterilizing of instruments or solutions, but I came upon some info I figured I'd share with you all.
Wet or dry heat can be used to kill microorganisms.
Wet heat is the most dependable procedure for the destruction of all forms of microbial life. Steam sterilization generally denotes heating in an autoclave employing saturated steam under a pressure of approximately 15 psi to achieve a chamber temperature of at least 121°C (250°F). The critical factors in insuring the reliability of this sterilization method is: 1) proper temperature and time; and 2) the complete replacement of the air with steam (i.e. no entrapment of air). Some autoclaves utilize a steam activated exhaust valve that remains open during the replacement of air by live steam until the steam triggers the valve to close. Others utilize a pre-cycle vacuum to remove air prior to steam introduction.
Physical controls such as pressure gauges and thermometers are widely used but are considered secondary methods of insuring sterilization. The use of appropriate biological indicators at locations throughout the autoclave is considered the best indicator of sterilization. The biological indicator most widely used for wet heat sterilization is Bacillus stearothermophilus spores.
Dry heat is less efficient than wet heat sterilization and requires longer times and/or higher temperatures. The specific times and temperatures must be determined for each type of material being sterilized. Generous safety factors are usually added to allow for the variables that can influence the efficiency of this method of sterilization. The moisture of the sterilization environment as well as the moisture history of organisms prior to heat exposure appear to affect the efficiency of dry heat sterilization.
Higher temperatures and shorter times may be used for heat resistant materials. The heat transfer properties and the spatial relation or arrangement of articles in the load are critical in insuring effective sterilization.
The advantage of wet heat is a better heat transfer to and into the cell resulting in overall shorter exposure time and lower temperature. Steam sterilization uses pressurized steam at 121-132° C (250-270° F) for 30 or 40 minutes. This type of heat kills all microbial cells including spores, which are normally heat resistant. In order to accomplish the same effect with dry heat in an oven, the temperature needs to be increased to 160-170° C (320-338° F) for periods of 2 to 4 hours.
After reading it, now I see where the idea of heating our "final products" @ 250 F for roughly 45 minutes came from. Though, that only seems to be effective in wet heating. Anyways, hope the info helps!