By Christie Vanover | Published July 8, 2022 | Last Updated August 10, 2022
There’s nothing worse than grilling a Thanksgiving turkey only to find out midway through the cook that your propane tank has run out of fuel. So just how long does a propane tank last? And how do you know if it’s almost empty?
Propane Tank Gauges
One of the easy ways to monitor the level of your propane tank is to install a propane tank gauge. There are few different varieties.
Propane Pressure Gauge
The pressure meter attaches to the end of the hose that comes with your grill. Then, it screws right on to the tank.
Once you twist the knob to open, the gauge will activate and display a reading of green, yellow or red. Green means you have plenty of propane left. Yellow means it’s time to have a backup tank on standby. Red means it’s time to refill or replace the tank.
Propane Weight Gauge
Another type of propane tank gauge is one that weighs the tank. A standard propane tank for a non-portable gas grill includes 20 pounds of propane gas. Those are the white tanks that you see outside hardware stores and grocery stores.
There are other propane tank sizes, like the ones used for portable grills and Coleman stoves, but for the purpose of this post, let’s focus on the tanks used on a standard gas grill.
When you get a propane tank refueled, the gas inside is actually added based on the weight.
With this type of gauge, you’ll disconnect the tank from your grill, attach it to the gauge’s hook and lift the tank by the gauge.
The dial will give you a readout like the fuel gauge on your car, ranging from full to 3/4 to 1/2 to 1/4 to empty.
Propane Magnetic Gauge
The final type of propane gauge is a little easier to use, because it doesn’t involve disconnecting your tank or lifting it. It’s the magnetic gauge.
You stick the magnet to the side of the metal tank and it measures the fuel inside based on the temperature.
When a propane tank releases gas during your cook, the tank will cool and the magnet is able to register that temperature adjustment to show how much fuel is left.
Although this is the easiest gauge to use, I personally don’t find it as reliable as the other methods.
How To Measure Your Propane Tank Level without a Gauge
You can also measure your tank without a gauge, and this is the method I use.
A propane tank for a standard gas grill includes 20 pounds of propane. When you look at the tank, you will see a tare weight embossed on or around the handle. It will probably be abbreviated to say TW.
The tare weight indicates how much the tank weighs when it’s empty.
So let’s say that your tank’s tare weight is 17.5 pounds. And you know a full tank includes 20 pounds. That means a full tank would weigh 37.5 pounds (the 17.5 pounds for the empty tank and the 20 pounds for the fuel).
Turn the knob to close and disconnect your tank from your grill. Then, place it on a scale.
Take the weight that you get and subtract it from the tare weight (17.5). This will tell you how many pounds of propane are left in the tank.
How Long Does a Propane Tank Last
The amount of propane you will use will depend on how big your grill is, how high of a temperature your cooking at and if you’re using all burners.
A good rule of thumb is that if you have a medium size, 3-burner grill, you’ll get about an hour of cook time per pound of propane.
If you have a larger gas grill, like a 4-burner grill, you’ll get about 30 minutes of cook time per pound of propane.
So if you have 10 pounds of propane (a half a tank), you’ll get 5-10 hours of grill time, depending on your grill. That’s plenty of time to grill a turkey.