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There is a frying pan advertised as "Oven safe to 220c". Teflon is safe to 260 °C, and if other surfaces are less temperature stable than teflon the fact is not well advertised. On the image there is no obvious non-metallic components, but there could be washers or something, much is obscured.

What is likely to be the limiting factor for oven use? Is it likely there is some component that will break down above 220 °C but below the temperature of the coating? Is the coating likely to break down above 220 °C? Or is it just that most recommended oven temperatures are 220 °C or below so they use this as the max value to ensure people that they can use it in a hot oven?

The pan in question

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  • I can't be sure from the picture, is the handle definitely real solid metal? (As in, have you actually handled it?)
    – Chris H
    May 4, 2023 at 16:42
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    Safety margin for the vagueness of oven temperature dials? Compensation for added radiance from the grill element pushing local hot spots? Legal CYA?
    – Tetsujin
    May 4, 2023 at 16:44
  • @ChrisH I have not handled it, but I think I am going to and will let you know. If it is not metal I will be surprised.
    – User65535
    May 4, 2023 at 18:01

3 Answers 3

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Ovens aren’t as accurate as most people might assume. They will overshoot the temperature, then cool off until a bit below the goal temperature, then heat back up again.

As such, even a well-calibrated oven set to 220° will get hotter than 220°. The manufacturer has no idea how hot it will actually get, so they need to leave a bit of a safety margin and specify a temperature below where the teflon will start to have problems.

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    A Teflon baking sheet picked pretty much at random says max 230°C, and some of the Teflon sheet liner I've got says 240°C. So the frying pan has an extra 10-20° margin
    – Chris H
    May 4, 2023 at 20:46
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    It's also possible that the binder that attaches the teflon to the pan has a slightly lower melting point. But the "safety margin" explanation is more likely correct.
    – FuzzyChef
    May 4, 2023 at 20:48
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Almost universally the temperature tolerance (and any other environmental tolerances) vendors will print on packaging, labels and in manuals should be considered the guarantees for their product.

They will rarely represent the actual temperature limits a product can sustain.

That 220 °C should be read as:

the product can be heated to 220 °C repeatedly and for long times without adverse effect and/or negatively impacting the usable life time expectancy of the product and/or the safety of the user.

That doesn't mean: "the product will immediately discolour, fail, melt, warp or otherwise become damaged, unusable or unsafe when exposed or heated to temperatures of 221 °C or beyond."

Such deterioration should not occur until the product gets exposed to much higher temperatures.

There is probably no single exact number that can be considered as "safe until here, above this is immediately too high" as the rate of deterioration will depend both on the actual excessive temperature as well as the duration of exposure, in other words, there's some bandwidth. As Wikipedia describes the safety of teflon: :

... [PTFE is] stable and nontoxic at lower temperatures, it begins to deteriorate at temperatures of about 260 °C (500 °F), it decomposes above 350 °C (662 °F), and pyrolysis occurs at temperatures above 400 °C (752 °F)
...
An animal study conducted in 1955 concluded that it is unlikely that these products would be generated in amounts significant to health at temperatures below 250 °C (482 °F). ...

So there is some safety margin in that 220 °C.

As to why 220 °C and not another maximum temperature gets guaranteed we can only guess:

  • Joe's answer is one possible explanation

  • a different consideration is that setting a temperature limit is much more neutral than phrasing usage restrictions as prohibitions.
    From a marketing perspective you avoid actually stating outright that the product is NOT suitable for something i.e. "not suitable for use on open fire" or "not suitable for specific tasks in a professional kitchen" (when you consider for examples the temperatures that a salamander can reach and maintain).
    That would suggest inferior quality and drive away potential customers. Also an exhaustive list of usages considered not safe might imply everything omitted there is indeed safe.

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While it is possible they are accounting for wiggle room (as another answer states), I don't think that is what is going on here. Normal oven temperature fluctuation is around 10-15 C in either direction. Besides that, Teflon is also aware that ovens aren't perfect, so when they say they can go to 260 that is almost certainly also accounting for small fluctuations. But nowhere does it ever mention Teflon. I have seen similar KitchenAid pans listed as "3-layer German engineered non-stick coating provides easy food release and fast clean-up". Without knowing exactly what that is, it seems most likely the 3 layer manufacturing process results in something that is more heat sensitive than simply applying a single layer of Teflon. Might be that one of the (non-teflon?) layers can't handle >220 c or maybe it would cause the binders to degrade.

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