In this article, a method to model the heat flux during quenching has been developed to bring out the effect of initial soaking temperature. Quench probes with a diameter of 20 mm and a length of 50 mm were prepared from 304 L stainless steel. These probes were quenched from different initial soaking temperatures ranging from 400 °Cto 950 °C in water. Time-temperature data were recorded during the quenching. The heat flux and temperature at the quenched surface were estimated based on the inverse heat-conduction method. The computation results showed that the peak in the heat flux increased with an increase in the initial soaking temperature of the probes. The heat flux was dependent on the initial soaking temperature. A model for the surface heat flux was proposed as a function of dimensionless parameters. The model could be used to compute the heat flux at different surface temperatures and was specified as a boundary condition to simulate the quenching for the particular material-quenchant combination. The model was verified by running a direct quenching simulation with heat fluxes computed at different surface temperatures using the proposed model as a boundary condition in ANSYS, a commercial finite element program. © The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society and ASM International 2009.