The Ultimate Guide to Propane Tanks for Food Trucks

Running a Mobile Kitchen: Everything You Should Know

Operating a food truck is an exhilarating opportunity to grow a small business and contribute to the community. However, it also entails significant responsibility, particularly when it comes to using propane tanks. At Hook’d Up Bar and Grill, our aim is to equip you with the information, resources, and service you need to ensure the safety of your food truck and the satisfaction of your customers.

The Flourishing World of Food Trucks

The food truck industry has experienced a remarkable surge in popularity over the past decade. Nationwide sales from food trucks jumped from $660.5 million in 2012 to $1.2 billion in 2017, marking an astounding increase of 79 percent[^1^]. This rise in popularity can be attributed to various factors, including the 2008 recession, which prompted a shift in food trucks’ appeal from construction sites to urban commercial areas. Entrepreneurs and traditional restaurant owners seized this opportunity to offer a diverse range of mobile food options, from tacos to kimchi to waffles and cupcakes.

Fast-forward to the 2020s, and the food truck trend is still going strong. With millions of people leaving their jobs, many are turning to mobile food operations as a viable business venture[^2^]. In uncertain times, food trucks have proven to be flexible, adaptable, and capable of meeting the demand for mobile and socially-distanced entertainment choices.

Embracing Opportunity with Responsibility

As the saying goes, “with great potential comes great responsibility.” This holds true for food truck owners. Safety should be a top priority, especially when it comes to using propane in your mobile kitchen. To help you navigate the world of propane, we’ve compiled a menu of expert tips specifically tailored to food trucks.

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Why Choose Propane?

Propane is an excellent choice for your food truck for several reasons:

  1. Efficiency: Propane heats faster and lasts longer than other fuel sources, making it ideal for a mobile kitchen. It ensures continuous operation during long festival days or rush hours, and it can quickly fire up for that odd customer during slow periods.

  2. Power: Propane’s efficiency is a testament to its power. However, this power also comes with responsibility. Mishandling propane tanks can expose workers, customers, and bystanders to safety risks. By properly maintaining and supervising your tanks, you can avoid these risks.

We highly recommend taking advantage of propane’s heating power and efficiency. Not only is it customer-friendly with its low to no exhaust, but it can also enhance your food truck’s operations. Just make sure you and your staff are trained in the safe use of propane.

Choosing the Right Tank Size

Determining the appropriate tank size depends on several factors, such as the size of your vehicle and the total BTU requirement of your appliances. To find the right tank size, follow these steps:

  1. Calculate the BTU requirement: Add up the BTU numbers of all the appliances in your food truck. For example, if you have two fryers running at 90,000 BTU each, your total is 180,000 BTU.

  2. Consider the BTU capacity: Divide the BTU requirement by the BTU capacity of the propane tank you’re considering. For instance, a 40-pound propane tank has a capacity of approximately 860,542 BTU. Dividing that by your fryers’ BTU requirement (180,000) gives you a result of 4.78. This means you can run your appliances continuously, at full capacity, for approximately 4.78 hours on one tank of propane.

  3. Factor in operating schedule and vehicle capacity: To ensure uninterrupted operation, consider your truck’s carrying capacity and operating schedule. You don’t want to run out of propane in the middle of a busy day. Consulting with a propane expert who understands mobile food operations will help ensure you choose the right tank size.

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Safely Placing Your Tanks

When it comes to placing propane tanks on your food truck, you have two options: vertical or horizontal. Each has its advantages and considerations, but local regulations may influence your choice. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Horizontal Placement: Propane tanks can be installed inside safety containers and attached to the vehicle’s undercarriage. While this method keeps the tanks out of the way in case of a traffic collision, it also exposes them to potential damage from bumps, debris, and impact. Additionally, accessing the tanks for inspection can be challenging with this placement.

  2. Vertical Placement: Attaching propane tanks to the back of your truck offers secure and easy access for inspection and refilling. By taking precautions such as putting up small barricades and limiting travel to low-traffic areas, you can minimize the risk of impacts. However, always check with your local municipality for specific regulations regarding tank placement.

Safety Measures and Maintenance

To ensure the safety of your food truck and its occupants, consider the following:

  1. Fire Extinguishers: Every food truck should have two types of fire extinguishers: a Class K extinguisher for suppressing grease or cooking oil fires and an ABC extinguisher for other types of fires. Make sure these extinguishers are readily accessible, and ensure that everyone on your food truck knows how to use them.

  2. Flammable Materials: Keep cleaning agents, cooking oils, and other flammable materials away from open flames and propane tanks. Maintaining a clean and orderly workspace, assigning designated storage areas, and promptly cleaning up leaks and spills are essential safety practices.

  3. Establish a Refill Routine: Plan to refill your tanks every few days, factoring in your operating schedule. It’s crucial to have your tanks filled by a certified propane technician at a designated refill location near your food truck.

  4. Propane Odor and Leak Detection: Propane is odorless, but an odorant called Ethyl Mercaptan is added to detect leaks. Familiarize yourself and your staff with the smell of propane and how to identify potential leaks. Regularly inspect your tanks for any signs of damage, corrosion, or leaks. Be sure to follow the recertification standards specific to your location to comply with local and state regulations.

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By adhering to the safety guidelines outlined by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and regularly refreshing your knowledge through propane safety courses, you can ensure that your food truck operates in compliance with safety regulations.

Remember, health and safety should be your top priorities when operating a food truck. Your propane tanks are at the heart of your operation, so keeping them in good shape is essential for your success. If you’re considering entering the food truck business or need a reliable propane partner, consider making Hook’d Up Bar and Grill your commercial propane provider.


[^1^] Data from a reliable source
[^2^] Data from a reliable source