Getting Tanked

Today I found out something new and potentially very helpful.

As often happens, lessons learned are done so the hard way.

I used to be a charcoal guy when it came to outside grilling, but in 2008 I broke down and bought a gas cooker at Kmart. If nothing else, my lovely bride would have a much easier time when she had a hankering for tossing some steaks on the barbie before her husband arrived home.

I have come to accept the lack of charcoal cooking in my life, but there was one thing about gas cooking that stymied me and until today, continued to do so.

How the heck do you know when your propane tank is running on empty?

It has happened more than once, where I've been midway through some steaks or chops or chicken and the flames grew perilously smaller and smaller until they finally went out altogether.

And, more than once, yours truly has had to turn off the burners, disconnect the tank and hurry it down to the local U-Haul or Home Depot for a refill---not unlike a pit stop for refueling.

On one of those occasions, several years ago, I asked the young man filling my tank what I could do to determine how much gas I had left with which to work.

He gave a convoluted answer that involved dunking the tank in a tub of ice water or some such thing and looking on the tank for where the water started to bead up on it. Or something like that. I'm sure I'm getting it wrong. Regardless, it sounded like way too much work. So I continued to play Russian Roulette with my propane tank.

This evening I played Russian Roulette and again shot myself in the skull.

Midway through the pork chops, the flames flickered.

I told Mrs. Eno that we weren't likely to make it, which displeased her.

Within moments, the flames were out. So again I went into pit crew mode and ran the tank over to the U-Haul, just minutes before closing time.

I decided to give my query another shot.

"Is there a simple way to tell when your tank is running low on propane?" I asked during re-fueling.

Why, yes there is, the U-Haul guy said.

He said it with such brilliant simplicity.

"Do you have a bathroom scale?" he asked. I said yes.

"Forty pounds is full. Twenty pounds is empty," he said.

That was it.

No dunking tanks. No looking for beading up or whatever.

Just weigh the darn thing.

"So let me get this straight," I said, as if there was a catch. "I weigh the tank and if it's, say, thirty pounds, it's half full?"

That's right.

And if it's 25 pounds it's one quarter full, etc.


I started to tell the U-Haul guy about the convoluted method and he waved me off before I could finish.

I excitedly relayed this to Mrs. Eno when I arrived with my now 40-pound tank. She was still sour about my running out of propane again and failing to do Google research about propane tanks. Fair enough. I Google a boatload of useless info, so she had a point.

Voila! I now know the method to determine whether my propane tank is in danger of petering out or not.

Which, of course, begs the question.

What are the odds of me disconnecting my tank in order to weigh it?

Somehow I have a feeling that my days of playing Russian Roulette with my propane tank aren't quite finished.

However, judging by the look on my wife's face tonight when I ran out of cooking gas, maybe I'd be playing Russian Roulette with my marriage if I took the lazy way out.


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