Last Updated on: 7th November 2023, 09:19 am
Propane smokers are popular for their ease of use and convenience.
However determining how long a propane tank will last on a propane smoker can be tricky, especially for beginners.
It depends on various factors which can affect the burning of propane.
In this blog post, we will explain the normal duration of a propane smoker and the factors that affect it.
So let’s get started.
The normal span
A propane tank is the reservoir of fuel while smoking in a propane smoker.
It comes in various sizes, ranging from 15 to 400 lb.
These tanks are selected based on various purposes, especially for long-term smoking in cold weather.
Usually, common propane smokers come with a 20 lb propane tank.
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It has pretty good space to hold a volume of propane to smoke for 18–20 hours, even in cold weather.
So it can be used for “cold smoking” in cold weather without any issues.
If the weather conditions are normal or warm, then this 20 lb tank can last for 35–40 hours or even more.
It is because when the weather is cold, it affects the internal temperature of the smoker because the smoking process is prolonged, which eventually results in burning more fuel.
Although the commonly used propane tank can last for approximately 20 hours, it’s better to always have a backup in case the primary propane tank runs out of propane.
If the propane supply is stopped during the process, then it can result in a sudden drop in temperature, which can affect the taste of meat.
In addition to having a backup, you should make sure that there are no leaks in the tank and smoker setup so that the propane doesn’t leak out and can be used without the fear of running out during the process.
Factors affecting the usage of propane in a smoker
We have discussed above that the normal propane tank can last for 18–20 hours, but it can vary from smoker to smoker due to various environmental factors and smoker components affecting the usage of propane in a smoker.
You should make sure to follow the best practices for these factors to make sure your propane tank lasts longer than before.
These are the most important factors involved in propane usage.
What kind of food you are smoking?
The most critical factor that affects propane usage in a smoker is the kind of food you want to smoke in a smoker.
for example, smoking jerky in propane smoker will require more propane than chicken.
It can affect the time that a propane smoker tank lasts.
It can affect the duration to such an extent that it can vary from 3–20 hours depending on what you are smoking.
If you are smoking tougher meat or meat that is cold and is not preheated before placing it in the smoker, then it will require more time to smoke such meat.
the reason is that if you smoke it at a higher temperature, it can result in the burning of the outer surface of the smoker while the inner side will remain uncooked.
If you are smoking soft and delicate food or meat, then it will require less time to smoke.
Although smoking them quickly may require a high temperature due to which more propane can be used, it will be way less than that used in cold smoking of tough meat.
In addition to the kind of meat you are smoking, the amount of meat that you want to smoke can also affect the usage of propane.
If you want to smoke a large amount of meat at once, then it is obvious that it will require more propane because more meat will absorb the heat produced.
Smoker Construction Quality
The build quality of the smoker can also be a major determinant in the usage of propane.
Propane smokers come in various designs based on their specific functions.
These designs also differ in the build quality and insulation.
Insulation and build quality are also important factors affecting propane usage in a smoker.
If a propane smoker is insulated and made up of good materials, then it will work efficiently, and the propane tank connected to such a smoker will last longer.
If the smoker is insulated, it will result in external weather affecting the internal temperature.
If the temperature is low outside the smoker due to cold weather, then the smoker will require more propane to heat up and cool the tank quickly.
On the other hand, insulated smokers help in preserving the propane.
In addition to insulation, poor build quality is also a major reason for the rapid consumption of propane.
If the structure is flimsy, it will not retain heat, and temperature is affected by the outside weather.
If the smoker has good build quality, it will retain heat for a longer time and consume less propane.
The size of the propane tank being used also affects the life span of the propane tank.
It is the most obvious and straightforward factor affecting propane usage.
There are many different types of propane tanks, ranging from those used for smoking to those designed for industrial use.
If the size of the smoker is large, then it is commonly observed that they run out of propane more quickly than smaller propane tanks if they have equal volumes of propane.
This is because if the area of the tank is larger, then it will increase the movement of propane inside the smoker, which means liquid propane can evaporate.
Weather conditions can also affect the time that a propane tank lasts.
It is most common in cases in which the smokers are not insulated and made of a filmy build.
You should see the weather forecast and avoid smoking on rainy days to use the propane tank for a longer time.
If the temperature of the environment is low, it will affect the internal temperature of the smoker and cause it to drop.
If the temperature is dropped once it will be difficult to heat it again and will also require more fuel to do so.
If the external temperature is normal or warmer, then it can help in heating the smoker quickly and will also require less propane due to the reason that the external temperature will not absorb any heat and hence not affect the inner temperature.
The smoking method that you are using can also affect the amount of propane being used.
There are various smoking techniques based on what kind of flavor you want to achieve with your smoking and what kind of meat you are smoking.
When smoking meat with a propane smoker, two methods are commonly used.
These smoking techniques require different temperatures, and hence different amounts of propane are burnt per hour in both techniques.
Hot smoking is the method that is used to smoke soft meat at a higher temperature for a short time.
In this smoking technique, the meat is directly exposed to fire and consumes more propane in a short period due to maintaining a high temperature.
Cold smoking is a smoking technique that is used to smoke tougher meat at a low temperature for a longer time.
In this method, the meat is not directly exposed to fire. Rather, it is smoked by convection by exposing it to smoke.
Although it will consume less propane per hour, it will keep going for a longer time and will use more propane at the end of the smoking process.
Leakage is also a common reason for running out of propane quickly. If your propane tank has leakage, then propane will leak out of it.
Although propane is in the form of liquid, it is highly volatile and can be converted to gas when exposed to higher temperatures.
If the propane is being evaporated continuously, it will leak out of the tank, and eventually, the propane tank will get empty.
In addition to the wastage of propane, the leakage of propane can also result in accidents when exposed to fire .
frequently asked questions
now that the main question has been discussed, let’s discuss some faqs that you might have.
how long will a 20lb propane tank last on a smoker
there is no black-and-white answer to this because there are various factors that affect the usage of propane in a smoker ranging from temperature to weather conditions.
however, as a rule of thumb, you can expect a 20 lb propane tank to last for around 18 to 20 hours under given conditions.
although this time duration can increase or decrease depending on the various factors.
among these factors, the temperature at which the grill is the most determinant.
for example, if your propane smoker is running at 170 degrees on a sunny day, then the propane tank will last longer than if the same smoker was running at 200 degrees in the same weather conditions.
Do I Need To Turn Off The Propane Tank After Grilling?
yes, you have to turn off the gas valve of the grill after you complete grilling your food. it’s equally important for grilling effectively and also for the safety of the grilling space.
many pitmasters tend to relate the gas valve to the usage of the gas, while in reality leaving the gas valve open while the grill is not in use can lead to a decrease in gas pressure known as bypass.
when your gas grill is in bypass condition, not enough propane will travel from the tank to the burner, and thus the grill will not heat up to the required temperature.
A propane tank can last for a good period if used with care.
You should also read the user manual of your smoker to get more information about the propane tank of your smoker.
If you are having problems with running out of propane, then you may consider modifying your smoker with a larger tank.
In addition, you should also have a backup propane tank in case it runs out during the smoking process.
We hope this article has helped you to understand how long a propane smoker lasts.
if you want to learn more about propane smokers then make sure to check out our guide on Can you use pellets in a propane smoker