Over the past few decades, Escherichia coli (E. coli) remains the most favorable host among the microbial cell factories for the production of soluble recombinant proteins. Recombinant protein production (RPP) via E. coli is optimized at the level of gene expression (expression level) and the process condition of fermentation (process level). Presently, the reported studies do not give a clear view on the selection of methods employed in the optimization of RPP. Here, we have reviewed various optimization methods and their preferences with respect to the factors at expression and process levels to achieve the optimal levels of soluble RPP. With a greater understanding of these optimization methods, we proposed a stepwise methodology linking the factors from both levels for optimizing the production of soluble recombinant protein in E. coli. The proposed methodology is further explained through five sets of examples demonstrating the optimization of RPP at both expression and process levels.Key Points• Stepwise methodology of optimizing recombinant protein production is proposed.• In silico tools can facilitate the optimization of gene- and protein-based factors.• Optimization of gene- and protein-based factors aids host-vector selection.• Statistical optimization is preferred for achieving optimal levels of process factors.