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DDFOE Writes:

"I have aquired an old propane storage tank about 60 gallons, and I want to build a smoker cooker out of it something similar to a lang cooker. The valves have been out of the tank for about 6 months, Is there still any danger of flare ups when cutting into a tank like this? Does any one know of any other drawbacks of using a propane tank for a cooker? Any info would be appreciated."


June 4, 2006 at 7:04 pm
(1) Rick Dyson says:

First fill the tank completely with water to get rid of any fuel. Then have at it.

March 24, 2007 at 11:24 pm
(2) Colin says:

Yes the stuff they use to make propane smell is toxic and it permeates every pore in the metal. So everything you smoke will taste like that stuff and it will also be toxic. Propane has no smell so they add a chemical agent to the tank so you can smell it if it is leaking.

September 13, 2010 at 1:17 pm
(3) RR says:

your an idiot washes out with hot soapy water and a good burn and smoke

August 21, 2007 at 9:44 pm
(4) Luke says:

Okay, it will smell, the odorant is called mercaptin. I’m sure it is toxic, however, it can be removed with soapy water and a good hot fire afterwards. People have been building smokers out of propane tanks for years, and some of the best smoked meat I’ve ever eaten has come off of those pits. I’m still here, so I don’t think you have much to worry about.

February 13, 2008 at 6:28 pm
(5) bill says:

so you are saying that it is safe to cut into one without doing anything to it befor you start

May 3, 2008 at 12:56 pm
(6) TJ says:

This is late but I’m gonna go with posts 1 & 2. Any gases/chemicals stored in that tank will have permeated the metal since it is porous. If you completely fill the tank up with water before making your first cuts you should be fine. I had a couple friends build one out of a propane tank and it came out quite nice.

May 29, 2008 at 9:17 pm
(7) Eric House says:

Most of you guys are correct in your comments. I built a pit out of a 250 gallon tank. I filled it with water to avoid blowing myself up with the first cut. To be quite honest, I filled it with water…drained it then filled it again. LOL Anyway, when I finished the pit, I burned out the inside a couple of times and then BBQed a couple of rounds of old hambergur meat to get some flaver into the metal. That was 16 years ago and I probably cooked a ton of meat on it and I am still alive. Happy cooking to all the meat burners out there.

November 6, 2008 at 9:44 pm
(8) jake says:

My name is jake and im only 16.
Im in my schools FFA and raise hogs. This year i am making a smoker/bbq pit out of a 500 gallon propane tank. My buddy who is heling me has a grandpa who refurbs tanks and he told me all i had to do was fill half way with water add deturgint and then fill to top with water. I do not plan on filling it but once because it is 500 gallons and takes forever to fill…

March 1, 2009 at 8:45 am
(9) joe says:

i also want to make a smoker from propane tanks how long must i leave water,detergent in tank before i start to cut it with meatal cutting disc? I was thinging of buying a new tank , do they test with propane be for selling ?it might be safer

April 4, 2009 at 2:55 pm
(10) Jon says:

I need some free plans for a 250 gallon tank to build it in to a bbq smoker please email me at Spainjon@aol.com
i will not pay for the plans so don’t even ask

April 13, 2009 at 5:18 pm
(11) David Springer Jr says:

I have a 500 gal 32″ by 12′ 6″ tank that I would like to get some ideas on how to go about making a rotissery smoker if anyone can share any ideas.

August 1, 2009 at 8:46 pm
(12) Macon says:

they work great i just sold one last night got a new and improved one in the works now. The tanks are easly cut on if you just take the regulator off and let it air out for a month you dont have any problems. I have probly cut 200 tanks in my days.

October 22, 2009 at 10:51 pm
(13) Chris says:

I am not having luck finding a old propane tank, Does anyone know if it is safe to use old hot water tanks, i have plenty of them. Has anyone used these to build a smoker?

July 26, 2011 at 6:27 pm
(14) ronnie says:

i have used several chris it is very safe to use them and fun to make so enjoy

October 30, 2009 at 1:25 am
(15) shawn says:

what kind of detergent do you use with the water to purge the tank

November 15, 2009 at 3:01 pm
(16) Higb says:

You don’t have to put soap in it or water. It will not explode. I work for a propane company and make grills out of huge tanks and they smell very strong when I cut into it. Just bleed off the pressure take out the valve, hold a match to it and it may burn ever so slightly buy no…it WILL NOT explode.

Once pressure is let out you can cut right into it without adding water or soap. It will smell of propane but just make a hot fire in it with wood and it will never smell of propane again.

November 19, 2009 at 11:46 am
(17) Enzo says:

First of all you had better scrub out as much of the chemicals as you can BEFORE you burn it out! Otherwise you are just locking in the chemicals into the metal. That is the same reason you don’t use soap on cast iron grates. Your food will taste weird from the contaminant you put into the porous metal. You heated and expanded the molecules changing the internal energy of the steel. Then when it cooled the chemicals will be locked into the steel.

December 29, 2009 at 1:44 pm
(18) smokerking says:

You crack me up Enzo. I have built and used several propane tank smokers over the years and my meat never tasted WEIRD. Fill it with water, no soap, wait a week and take a torch after it. after built, cover cooking surfaces with veggie oil and fire it to ~300 deg’s with hardwood for a few hours. I use either oak or hickory. YOU DON’T NEED DETERGENT OR MASSIVE SCRUBBING.

February 6, 2010 at 7:52 pm
(19) ronny mcmurray says:

I have built several smoker grills from propane tanks, it safe and easy to do. First remove the valves on the top, allow it to air for several weeks. Second fill it with water, let it set for a few days, then pump or siphon it out. Third put a larger bottle of dish soap in the tank and fill with water again, as it fills you will see the suds come out the top and they will be a yellowish color. Continue to fill until water runs out the top. Drain the tank about half way and cut away. Trust me this works I am working on another one now using a 250 gallon tank. Once you get it cut out burn several fires in it, i use the cheapest charcoal i can find. Another good idea it grill or smoke some scraps such as a local meat cutter throws out, usually they will give it to you. After a few hot fires the toxin is gone, I have been eating off them for over 30 years and i feel fine.

February 8, 2010 at 8:07 pm
(20) Chet says:

Higb is RIGHT! You don’t have to put any water or anything in those tanks. Just take the valves off. You can run air in it if you like for about half hour or so. But, all you have to do is make sure all the valves are off so the propane that is in there can escape. I take my torch and hold it over the holes to burn off any propane that might be in there. It takes over 250 psi for those tanks to blow @ 100 degrees. Where propane has a psi of 160. If your still worried about it. Than fill the thing with water and have had it!

April 21, 2010 at 7:13 pm
(21) Big Chris says:

THE BEST BBQing comes out of these propane grills, just wash thoroughly and burn a fire or 2! Don’t be feminine and man up!!!!!!

April 22, 2010 at 10:01 am
(22) mjsaul says:

Ethyl Mercaptin is not toxic. And yes fill the tank with water. I have seen a tank with nothing but propane residue explode. Not a risk worth taking. I have been in the propane industry as a service tech for several years. Propane tanks make great smokers but do it safely.

May 13, 2010 at 11:23 pm
(23) Blazerjohn says:

I have a 250 gallon propane tank i puchased to make into a smoker. It must have been buried under ground cause it has a black tar like substance coated on the outside. I hope it will burn off when i fire it up??

June 16, 2010 at 7:10 pm
(24) msf says:

its not safe to cut into one these tanks by any stretch, but it safe to eat what comes off of the pit. the best way to purge these tanks is with exhaust from an engine. run a hose from the exhaust to the tank, leave an opening for the exhaust to come out of the tank. when you do it this way you dont have air bubbles trap inside with gas in them. its easier to cut also.

July 14, 2010 at 5:09 pm
(25) haz tach says:

im a haz mat tach for a large fire dept. and a welder as a side job. 1st, propane is not toxic, if it was why would the build propane cookers and/or use it on travel trailers for the stoves. 2nd, mercaptin is added to natural gas not propane, natural gas has no odor, thus making impossible to detect a leak, that is why they add mercaption, as an odorant to be able to detect it. last, as for welding or cutting in to a old propane tank, which by the way make perfect bbq pits due to thier 1/4″ metal constuction, just fill the tank with water through the fill valve(removed by unscrewing it)then just cut with a torch/cutter.

August 26, 2010 at 3:52 pm
(26) todd says:

you can fill the tank with any inert gas like carbon dioxide before you cut it and it will remove all the oxygen and other gases. There are other gases as well just buy a bottle from the welding shop. Or you can hook up a hose to the tailpipe of a running gas vehicle and put the exhaust inside the propane tank.

September 2, 2010 at 4:30 pm
(27) Davey says:

Hey I have a 250 gal. propane tank that is been sitting in my backyard for close to 2 years and I have all the valves open Should I still fill it with water before I start cutting into it? Going to make it my big smoker have a lilttle one but it’s to small.I finally found a jet ski trailer that I’m going to mount it on. My brother in law is a Iron worker he buillt me a grill out of a 50 gal. tank split it open mounted it on some extra cyclone fencing post bulit 2 seperate grates that is 8 ft long have been doing my side business with that.
Big Dads BBQ

September 23, 2010 at 3:37 pm
(28) ray says:

only danger is that you use only water to purge a tank of any size ,,i have been building custom smoker pits for over 30 years,,any tank no matter how old and how long the valves have been out still have a residue that is flameable,,,there are 2 safe ways to sut the initial hole preferably on the lower quadrant for the centerline of the firebox ,,
1. buy 2 boxes of rock salt(ice cream salt) put in through a hole ,then fill with water to the top let stand for 3 days before making the drain hole at the firebox location,reason is in case there is a flare up it goes out the bottom and not in your face
2, run a flexable metal exhaust pipe from any gas engine let it run for 30 minutes before making the initial cut on the bottom..carbon monoxide takes the oxyegen out of the tank so fire cant burn,,step one is safer in my book
plus the rock salt also loosens up any residue that may have embedded in the pours of the inner metal.. if you would like to talk about it here’s my cell phone 2817946351

September 28, 2010 at 9:18 am
(29) Randy says:

I think you people are all a little paranoid! I just bought a 500 gallon tank to make a mack daddy cooker, been welding on it for over a week now – getting ready to mount it to a trailer. When I first got it, it totally smelled like what Propane smells like, so I dropped a water hose down into the top…let it run for about 10 min. Then swished the water around by rolling it back and forth, yes it was a little heavy! Then I broke out the big chop saw and started cutting the doors. Sparks every where, no explosion. If your tank is completely empty and you let if vent for several days, you really only need to put “some” water in there to exhaust the fumes. I just had my first big flame in the there…probably about 500 degrees and kept it going for about 4 hours, I’m pretty sure that any harmful stuff is gone!

October 27, 2010 at 10:31 pm
(30) JJ says:

The tanks will blow after sitting years with the valves pulled! Dry ice gives off carbon dioxide, and is a great way to inert the tank before cutting it.

April 27, 2011 at 7:51 am
(31) Frank says:

I’m sure I’m way late to this party… Does anyone know of any plans to build one of these propane tank/oil tank bbq’s? I don’t see any links to plans in any of the comments. Thanks in advance.

June 8, 2011 at 11:45 am
(32) Harold says:

this is for jon that has no plan and a very rude way of askin for
help gettin them. If your so sure of your self of havin the ability
to build one then you should go ahead and waste your time
finding out your truth in failure and success . and work on being a little nicer in your communicating skills

July 29, 2011 at 9:56 pm
(33) john says:

ok. the only way to correctly purge a propane tank is to open the plug on the top, then the BOTTOM one. Propane is heavier than air and will not escape out of the top. take a air hose and blow LIGHTLY from the top to purge it out the bottom. If you put too much pressure it will cause a jetstream and go straight through the bottom opening instead of mixing throught the tank. not saying other ways dont work, i would probably just fill it with water, but that is the correct way.

November 18, 2011 at 6:37 pm
(34) Shane slover says:

K so stupid question, if u open the bleeder valve completely, is it safe to assume the tank is completely empty to take the main valve out?

April 4, 2012 at 4:33 pm
(35) D K says:

I’m currently building a grill out of an old propane tank. For anyone that has built one before, how did you vent the fire from the side. with the rounded sides it’s hard to just put a normal square door on it. Any ideas?

May 18, 2012 at 1:31 am
(36) david says:

I have cut a number of tanks of various sizes and a torch works better than a plasma, that is the first thing. .
second, the approach i use is that i remove the brass and i turn the tank upside down so the holes are at 6 o’clock position. with space beneath the tank ; the tank resting on 4×4 beams.

Propane being heavier than air will settle and generally overnight on a warm day is enough to clear the tank. i did have a flame once and it scooted the tank along about a foot like a jet engine since the energy went out one hole ; that was before i learned the upside down method.

then i cut with no problems. i use this cause method, to use much water from the well is a waste of water and raises hell with the misses.

May 18, 2012 at 11:34 am
(37) ward says:

i have ribs i need to smoke so how long did you leave the tank inverted before you cut on it, i was going to do the same but push air in and it let it sit?

August 12, 2012 at 10:43 pm
(38) Skip says:

I have a question, a little off subject but maybe some knows for sure. …………. Gas co. came in 8 yrs ago and told my 75 yr old Mom that she couldn’t use the 500 gal tank anymore that was burried in her back yard for 30 yrs , so they set a new tank in the yard ,transfered the gas and filled the old one with water. Now 8yrs later I want that tank gone and need to drain the water but was told that it would smell up the whole area like a huge propane leak. Is any of this true? Or Not ? or how do I get rid of the smell before I drain it. I can hear Mom now if I stink up the whole valley….!!!!! Thanks for your help.

March 29, 2013 at 10:37 pm
(39) BANDIT says:

i just hook it up to the exhaust from my truck let it flow for a minute and cut it.

May 5, 2013 at 7:43 pm
(40) tas says:

I see most people have no idea about metal and its properties. I never knew metal absorbed all these things? lol And Enzo you don’t put soap on cast iron grates becaue you remove the “seasoning” layer that helps make them nonstick and prevents rust it wont cause a taste.

May 15, 2013 at 11:38 pm
(41) mac moo says:

Only a couple people got it right. I was just waiting for someone to say. Propane is heavier than air. You can remove the evacuation valve that is subjected to a tube that extends to the bottom of tank. You can push out the propane vapor this way or turn the tank over. Anything else is very dangerous. Most people just got lucky the air fuel mixture was not right.

May 20, 2013 at 9:47 pm
(42) JOSH says:

I read this than went outside filled my tank half way with water removed the valves and cut, no problems, smoke on smokers.

June 12, 2013 at 3:31 pm
(43) Dave says:

The propane tanks are tested with water and pressure when they are built 120 gallon ,250 gallon and so on . They make some of the best smokers around,you can take the valves out of the tank CAUTION PLEASE release pressure first, in 2 or 3 months the smell will be gone if you werent planning on workin on it soon. The smell is Elthyl Mercapton… if you have any questions on any tank feel free to ask happy smokin.Dave

July 3, 2013 at 4:25 am
(44) beaverdambbq says:

Thanks for all the info. You answered most of my questions.

July 7, 2013 at 9:21 pm
(45) Mark says:

I have just finished my 6th smoker. I have used everything from 560 gallon farmer skid tanks that held gasoline to propane tanks. My last one was a 250 gallon propane tank and it is on a trailer. One person give you good advise fill it with water till the open ports flow. do this twice then cut away. For gasoline or farmer skid tanks it is different. After washing out the tank with soap water, when ready to cut put about 5 to 10 pounds of dry ice in the tank. when the vapors come from all ports you can cut. the dry ice produces carbon dioxide and will not burn and will prevent any flash from residue.

August 5, 2013 at 1:41 pm
(46) Harold Powell says:

ethtylmercaptin is not toxic or they wouldn’t put it in gas that you burn in a grill or stove in your home

March 5, 2014 at 4:35 am
(47) LONNIE says:


April 13, 2014 at 9:51 am
(48) Ronnie says:

Remove valves, put tank in area free of ground fuel, stack wood around the tank, light the wood and cook the tank. This removes the fuel in the pores of the tank. Safe to weld, cut, etc.

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