The gang has assembled. The steaks have been selected. The veggies are set for their place on the grill too. That's when the worst thing in the world that can happen to an outdoor cookout happens. You run out of propane in your tank.

Propane tanks are a lot like cans of Barbasol Shave Cream, they never seem to run out until you really need them to not be empty. So while that can of shaving cream might leave a rust ring on your bathroom counter as a testament to its longevity the propane tank is not so telling.

It's not like you could or would want to open up the tank and look inside. That would only get you on America's Funniest Home Videos and probably some time in a local burn unit if you happened to be smoking.

Here's what you do to check the level of the propane in your tank. First, you will need a pan of warm water. Second you will need your propane tank out in the open so you can pour the warm water onto it.

After you have poured the warm water directly on to the tank feel the side of the tank. The part of the tank that is warmed from the water is empty space. The part of the tank where there is still propane will be decidedly cooler.

By starting from the to and working your way down you can estimate how much propane gas is in your tank. You'd want to do this before your cookout in case you needed to make a run to the store for a refill.

An average tank for an average home use grill will yield about 8-10 hours of cooking time. Since most of us only fire up the grill for 20 or 30 minutes at a time it's hard to keep track of just how much gas you've used. Hopefully this will prevent you from having to order pizza when the crowd was planning on steaks.