potThis morning a friend of mine asked me a burning question: What pots and pans do I use on a daily basis? What's safest -- stainless steel? Some women love talking shoes. Me, I love talking pots and pans.

I'm no expert. But I do cook a lot, and I am passionate about my pots and pans. I know -- I need to get a life, apparently, but I eat well! Because my kitchen is tiny I have a very small collection of cookware. I can't afford to keep around anything I don't use all the time. Here's what I consider my stove-top essentials.

1. Cast iron dutch oven set. I have this amazing set, a version of this Combo Cooker. It's a deep, three-quart skillet with a griddle that doubles as a lid to turn both into a dutch oven. I love how versatile it is. LOVE. It's the best way to brown meat. If you're getting married, definitely put this baby on your registry.

Cast iron can add trace amounts of iron into your food, but for most of us that's a bonus. If you care for it, it makes for a great non-stick cooking surface that doesn't leech toxins like most synthetic non-stick pans do.

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2. Stainless steel core/aluminum exterior pots. I have two All-Clad sauce pans, a two-quart and a four-quart. I've had mine for 16 years and I fully expect to keep using them for the rest of my life. Here's the cool thing about these pots: The stainless steel core makes for more even heat. The aluminum layers on either side of the core are excellent heat conductors and are easy to keep clean. Together they are the ultimate cooking team. Yes they are crazy expensive, BUT! There are other manufacturers who make aluminum/stainless steel pots like these at a much lower price point.

3. Enamelware. I have an enamelware braiser. Enamelware is usually just cast iron with an enamel coating. This is a plus if you're working with acidic ingredients (like tomatoes) that can react to iron. And, well, I just think they're beautiful enough to put right down on the table as a serving dish. I also have a vintage enamelware saute pan that I use all the time. It's so old, the wooden handle came off. I still use it anyway.

4. Crock pot. Okay, these are not stove-top, but I still have to mention. Honestly, how does anyone get by without one? Mine has a ceramic interior dish you can pull out and use as a serving dish or to store leftovers. I bought the cheapest, low-frills version I could find. I can't even remember what the brand is. It has three settings, which is all I need.

What are your pot and pan essentials?