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How to Build a BBQ Pit Smoker Out of Propane Tank

Do you want to build a backyard bbq pit smoker? If YES, here is a step by step guide on how to build a bbq pit smoker propane tank and how much it cost.

A propane smoker is simply a special type of gas smoker that uses propane. This smoker works like a regular gas smoker. It reaches a higher temperature than a regular grill and smokes the food. Smokers like the propane smoker are easily identified.

These smokers immerse the food in a crucible of mist and give it a nice dry texture.  These smokers require propane tanks. The volume of the tank can vary. Some use a 15 – pound tank, while others use a 30 – pound tank. The higher the volume, the longer the tank will last.

The only downside to propane smokers is that they cost more. The difference between a good rack of ribs and a mouth watering, fall-off-the-bone rack is all in the temperature. The recommended heat range is between 225 degrees and 250 degrees.

Propane Smoker Vs Wood Smoker – Which is the Best?

A propane smoker is practically much better than a wood smoker. This is because it cooks food much faster than a regular grill. Since it reaches tremendous amounts of heat, it can roast the food faster. These smokers are best for reducing cooking time.

It is also ideal for cooking rare steaks. The temperature is so high that the inside isn’t cooked enough, giving you the medium rare experience. It is also great for cooking vegetables and omelettes. The lifespan of a propane tank on a smoker will depend on a lot of things.

These include the amount of volume, frequency of use, and heat that you use.  However, it is recommended you get a 15 – pound propane tank if you are looking to construct a propane smoker. A 15 to 20 – pound tank will likely last for 18 to 20 hours.

This makes them worth the money. Nonetheless, this also depends on how much heat you provide. Gauges rarely exist in tanks, so you need to know how long it’ll last. Consider buying a 20 – pound tank for outdoor and indoor use. For tailgate parties, a 15 – pound tank should be enough.

Health wise, with a propane smoker, there aren’t many issues. You don’t get any unhealthy deposits. You don’t have to inhale unhealthy smoke. And your food is cooked pretty well. The only disadvantage is that you might end up undercooking the food from the centre.

For steaks, this is fine. But for other foods, it can be toxic. You might also end up burning off a lot of fat, which is a good thing. Melting off the fat will increase the healthiness of the steak and make for a nutritious meal.

Things You Need to Construct a BBQ Pit Smoker Out of Propane Tank

First and foremost, if you are not an experienced welder, get an experienced professional to help you out or find a reputable builder if you want something that is custom made. Notably, below are the equipment and tools you will need to complete this project.

  • Open Air Utility Trailer

Note that you will need a trailer to attach your smoker to. For most folks, a 5×10 foot trailer is more than enough space to install a 120 gallon tank and leave some space for optional items. According to reports, most builders spend $1,000 – $2,000 on a used trailer depending on the size and condition.

However, if you plan to keep your BBQ trailer on – site at your property and don’t intend to travel frequently with it, then you can cut costs and get a cheaper trailer. If you do plan to take this off – site to family gatherings or catering gigs you will need something that is more roadworthy and can handle the mileage.

  • Propane Tank

This propane tank will become what is commonly referred to as the smoking chamber. Have it in mind that the larger the propane tank, the more meats you will be able to cook at once. The larger the tank you install, the bigger the trailer you will need to lug this thing around and support the weight. If you want to keep costs low, start with a smaller 60 – gallon propane tank and even a small trailer will do the job.

  • Chimney

You will need a chimney to release heat and smoke from the main chamber of your smoker. Smaller smokers using 60 – gallon tanks will more or less have just one chimney. For larger 120 gallon and larger tanks, it is advisable you install two chimneys.

One on the right and left side to ensure the heat has somewhere to go. You can use scrap metal to form the chimney or exhaust.

  • Steel Racks

Additionally, you will need some racks to place the meat inside of the smoker. It is advisable you install these racks on tracks inside the BBQ so that you can easily pull them out when needed. It will make operating a BBQ much easier and more convenient.

These are sometimes referred to as cooking grates or BBQ grids. You can order these in a variety of different dimensions pre-made at places like

  • Firebox

Have it in mind that a firebox is where the heat or fire is made. You will have to install this firebox because you don’t want the fire to be directly over your meat in the main chamber as it would be within a regular BBQ grill. The aim is for the heat from the firebox to circulate around in the main chamber and smoke the meat evenly.

  • Steel Wood Boxes

Although you don’t need to install steel boxes on your BBQ trailer, but they sure are nice to have! Most builders will install some steel boxes into the trailer that can be used in a variety of ways. One common use is to place wood logs for smoking later in these boxes. Other pitmasters make their boxes the right size to fit their Igloo coolers where meat and beverages can remain cool.

  • Cutting Board Area

Note that the cutting board area will only consume a small portion of your trailer if you decide to install it, but will make cutting meats and prep easier for the pit master. It is advisable you install a low-cost cutting plastic cutting board. Boards are affordable and can be easily replaced if you get too much wear and tear.

  • Roof or Awning

Many of the smaller BBQ trailers that are used for tailgating don’t have a roof and get by just fine. Installing a roof or awning will have a couple major benefits.

First, your smoker will be covered and better protected from rain. This can also protect your smoker from prolonged exposure to the sun. A roof or awning can also provide benefits for the cook too. If you don’t like standing in the sun all day long this is a feature you will want included.

How to Build a BBQ Pit Smoker Out of Propane Tank in 7 Steps

If your plan is to use your BBQ smoker to start a catering business, note that you have to build in some additional elements into your trailer to meet state, county, and potentially city health requirement regulations. It is advisable you consult your state and local health department for mobile food vending before you start the design process.

The local laws in your area will likely influence how your trailer is made. However, below are ways to construct a BBQ Pit Smoker out of Propane Tank.

  1. Decide on what you want and Frame the Trailer

Even before you start investing on equipment and materials, ensure you have a clear idea of what you want to construct.  A lot of people looking to construct a pit smoker purchase an open air utility trailer first. Think about the utility trailer as the frame or the foundation that you will build your trailer on.

Once you know the amount of room you have to work with on a trailer, you can begin to map out what you need and where you want to position things on your trailer.

  1. Construct the Main Chamber

You will have to carefully cut your propane tank to create the top and bottom of the main chamber. Make use of a circular saw and cutting blade to get through the steel tank. You can modify the tank later to become a larger smoking chamber for the unit.

  1. Finding The Right Pieces

At this point, you will have to head out to the scrap metal yard to find everything you need to build a BBQ trailer. You will have to pick up metal for the reverse flow plate, expanded metal that will be used for the grate; four – inch channel will be used for the frame, and the tongue of the trailer that will also be salvaged.

  1. Constructing the Firebox

Now is the time to cut a door into the firebox. As the name implies, the firebox is where you will get your heat. You will insert wood in here or coal depending on your preference. You also need to make sure there’s proper airflow from the firebox to the main chamber. You will need to install a door to open and close this area.

  1. Aligning Everything Together

Immediately you’ve got your firebox and main chamber assembled, the only thing left is to weld the two pieces together and put them onto a trailer.

  1. Ensure Everything is Weighted Correctly

The firebox must now be installed at the rear of the trailer. When assembling a trailer like this, you need to be aware of your weight distribution. You don’t want too much weight in the rear or the front of the trailer or transporting the smoker won’t work.

There are some tricks you can use to even out the weight though. You can put concrete at the tongue of the trailer to distribute the weight properly.

  1. Painting the BBQ and Other Finishing Touches

At this point you will have to weld some finishing touches of the BBQ panels and hammer open the door. Finally, spray some black paint on the trailer and the job is complete.


Propane tanks are great for building a smoker because the steel they are made from is usually a quarter of an inch thick or more. It makes it easier for cutting doors out without them warping and they last forever. However, before cutting the tank open, dump out the water and purge the tank with argon or carbon dioxide.

Leave as many holes open in the tank as possible as to not pressurize the tank. Also ensure the container or vessel is not pressurized and you are in a well ventilated area.

Make sure the container or vessel has all threaded or bolted ports opened up and inert gas is purged into the container or vessel to remove all oxygen. Argon works well for this. When preparing to cut open any container that you are unsure is safe; always seek advice from an expert.