Until Thursday, 5/18/17, I had three 18 lb turkeys in the freezer purchased last Thanksgiving or Christmas. My wife and I love smoked turkey, but thawing and brining them safely is always a concern. As summer approaches, even more so. We don't have an extra refrigerator, and the refrigerator we use doesn't have room to thaw an 18 lb bird. Consequently, I often use the sink to water thaw my turkeys. 30 minutes per pound and they are thawed. Unfortunately, it occupies the sink all day. Then I brine them in a large 20 quart stainless steel pot I have, wrapped in towels and put in the garage. As summer nears, that really doesn't work too well. I needed a better way. I often use one of my Coleman Xtreme coolers as an extra refrigerator. The smaller 28 quart Xtreme cooler is perfect for an 18-20 lb bird or smaller, and will keep iced food in the safety zone (less than 40°F) for at least three days. The Coleman Xtreme coolers are not expensive at all ($20-$35 for the 28 quart). They are often on sale this time of the year. Knowing I needed to start smoking my turkeys, I wanted to find a way to thaw and brine the turkeys with as little hassle as possible. Coolers to the rescue! I don't like putting raw meat directly in a cooler that I use for other things too, so what follows is simple, easily cleaned up, and helps prevent contamination. How to Thaw in a Cooler: 1. Put a frozen 18 lb turkey in the 28 quart cooler. Leave it in the original vacuum wrapping. 2. Cover with cold water, close cooler, and walk away. If using a regular cooler, not an Xtreme cooler, figure 30 minutes per pound to thaw. If using an Xtreme cooler, triple that. 3. When the required time is up, check the temperature of the water close to the bird, but not touching. It should be 34-39°F. A thawed bird will feel spongy to the touch. If not thawed, you can feel hardness below the skin. 4. When the bird is thawed, leave the cold water in the cooler. How to Prep Turkey for Bag Brining in a Cooler: 1. Prepare your favorite brine. If using an "enhanced" bird, one that has been pre-brined, cut the salt in your brine in half or the bird will be too salty. 2. Put a cookie sheet on the counter, the kind with a 1/2" to 1" lip around the edges to catch liquid and brine. Place the thawed bird on the cookie sheet. Remove the original turkey wrapping and discard. 3. Remove the neck from the main cavity and the internal organ bag from the neck cavity. Save or discard, depending on your preference (I smoke the neck and use the organs in gravy). 4. Inject your favorite brine recipe into the breast of the bird. 5. Using a Ziplock XL Storage bag (10 gallon size, $5.99 for four bags at Amazon as an add-on item, it is food-safe), slip the turkey into the bag like putting a pillow into a pillow case. Turn the bird so it is breast side down in the bag. 6. Lower the open bag into the cold water in the cooler, but don't allow any of the water to get into the bag. Pour the brine into the bag. Seal the bag, letting the water squeeze as much air as possible out of the bag. Double check that it is sealed (experience talking). Dump some ice into the cooler. 7. Let brine for 12-24 hours. Check occasionally for ice still present in the water. Add more if needed. 8. After brining period, discard water, brine, and Ziplock brining bag. Prep bird for the smoker. Thoroughly clean the cooler. My wife HATES handing raw meat, so what I described above can easily be done by one person. One of the turkeys is brining as I speak. Depending what we have to do this weekend, it will either be smoked today or tomorrow. For new folks, it is NEVER too early to practice for Thanksgiving! Have a great weekend everyone! Ray Coleman Xtreme Cooler Thawed turkey into water in Ziplock XL bag, brine added, bag sealed, and ice added. After 20 hours, ice still present. Water temp after brining 20 hours in an Xtreme cooler. I'll add more ice just for safety sake after my wife wakes up.