Joachim Beuckelaer's specialties--small genre scenes and still lifes on panel--often included depictions of Bible stories. After studying with his uncle Pieter Aertsen, who pioneered the new subjects of kitchen and market scenes, Beuckelaer took up this genre. These popular pictures displayed abundant food, with people either standing around or preparing a meal, while the background nearly always contained a religious scene. The paintings often had a moralizing purpose, illustrating the opposition between worldly and spiritual values and warning of the pleasures of the flesh.
Beuckelaer sometimes placed scenes in idealized townscapes, but he also created richly peopled wooded landscapes and riverbanks, with a strong sensitivity for atmosphere. He had no immediate followers in Antwerp, but his work was popular in northern Italy, inspiring Annibale Carracci to paint market and kitchen scenes. According to contemporary biographers, Beuckelaer flooded the market with inexpensive paintings, which only became valuable after his death. He frequently worked for other artists and probably participated in monumental projects for churches. From the later 1560s, he used canvas rather than panel and concentrated on large formats.