This review describes and discusses techniques useful for monitoring the activity of protein ion channels in vitro. In the first section the biological importance and the classification of ion channels are outlined in order to justify the strong motivation for dealing with this important class of membrane proteins. The expression, reconstitution and integration of recombinant proteins into lipid bilayers are crucial steps to obtain consistent data when working with ion channels. In the second section recording techniques used in research are presented. Since this review focuses on analytical systems bearing reconstituted ion channels the industrial most important patch-clamp techniques of cells are only briefly mentioned. In section three, artificial systems developed in the last decades are described while the emerging technologies using nanostructured supports or microfluidic systems are presented in section four. Finally, the remaining challenges of membrane protein analysis and its potential applications are briefly outlined.