BACKGROUND Eggshell contains two layers formed by a dense network of fibrous proteins. These proteins are highly insoluble in a broad variety of solvents, but their composition makes them suitable for a broad range of applications. In this study, in order to extract and solubilise these proteins, the eggshell membranes were treated in an alkali solution. A Box-Behnken design was employed to determine the influence of the treatment variables on the amount of protein solubilised. Furthermore, the effect of ultrasound on the protein recovery yield was also evaluated and compared with the unmodified process. RESULTS A solubilised protein yield close to 100% of the total eggshell membrane protein was obtained. The optimal conditions could be set at 70 °C in a 1.0 mol L-1 NaOH solution for 60 min. However, when ultrasound was applied, it was possible to decrease the time of reaction by half. In the two processes, the temperature was found to be the most important independent variable evaluated. Finally, the antioxidant properties of the proteins obtained in each case were similar. CONCLUSIONS Ultrasound favours the detachment of big clumps of proteins from the eggshell membrane, facilitating the solubilisation of its compounds. The ultrasound had no effect on the protein properties tested in this study. © 2017 Society of Chemical Industry.