Some of the best meat smokers have been made using propane tanks. With a bit of elbow grease, you can transform any old propane tank into a fully functional smoker.
Make Sure It's Safe
Because the tank held propane at one time, it is important to make sure that it is safe to begin working on it. This means that all of the propane must be evacuated before making the first cut. This is the most important step because propane is so flammable that you will have an explosion if there is some remaining.
A mixture of water, dish soap, and tri-sodium-phosphate is the perfect solution for flushing the propane out. Water is heavier than propane, so the propane will rise to the top of the tank if filled with water. By adding dish soap to the mix, you can ensure that tiny spaces are reached. This is because dish soap contains agents that cause water to lose its surface tension. Tri-sodium-phosphate helps break down oily substances and is the final ingredient in the mix.
Cut Out the Doors
Once you are sure the tank is thoroughly cleaned and depressurized, you can begin cutting out the doors. The design of the doors is personal preference, so you'll need to decide if you want one large door or multiple smaller ones. It can be helpful to leave the corners attached and make the final cuts later. This will ensure that when you weld the hinges on, the doors are kept in the correct position.
Adding the Firebox
It is at this point that you will add the firebox to the tank. You may choose to build your own out of steel, but this option can become very expensive. A great alternative is to use another propane tank (contact a local outlet, such as Guier Gas, for further assistance). The first tank will lay horizontally, and the second will stand vertically. You will need to cut holes in both tanks so that the horizontal tank can be inserted about 6 inches into the vertical one. You will want to wait to weld them together until a little later in the process.
Add the Cooking Racks
Pull the two tanks apart so that you can access the open end of the horizontal one. This will allow you to build the shelves where you will place the meat. They will be welded to the inside of the tank so that they do not slide around. In the vertical tank, you will weld a plate about halfway up the vertical tank. This will separate the firebox portion from some added cooking space directly above that. You can then weld several grated shelves above the plate and one below it for the coals.
Add the Smoke Stacks
At this point, you will add some stacks that will allow the smoke to escape. You will want to place a stack on each of the tanks. Cut a hole in each tank that is the same diameter as the pipe used for the stacks. Insert the pipes into the holes and weld them into place.
At this point, you are ready to weld the two tanks together. Once they are welded together, you will want to build a fire in the firebox and let it burn for awhile. This will season the smoker and get it ready to cook. Once you've done this, you can begin cooking meat in your smoker. When you bite into what you cook, you'll thank yourself for all of your hard work!